Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Microsoft's DreamSpark Sparks I.T. Students Worldwide

I've spent a lot of time saying that rather than pursuing additional H-1B visa's Microsoft which arguably hurts American educational competitiveness, they need to do more to just the opposite, improving American educational competitiveness.

Looks like they may have listened they have just introduced the DreamSpark program aimed at fostering technology innovation worldwide. Through the DreamSpark program, Microsoft is giving away development and design software to university and high school students around the world, including those right here in the United States.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is expected to unveil the DreamSpark program Tuesday at Stanford University on the first stop of a U.S. and Canadian college tour. The program is now available to more than 35 million college students in Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S.

Software available to students through DreamSpark includes Microsoft's development environment, Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition, and its Web and graphic design toolset, the Expression Studio, also available through the program is the XNA Game Studio 2.0, SQL Server Developer Edition, Windows Server Standard Edition and other software and resources.

The programs available include:

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Testers Check Out uTest The New Pay Per Bug Testing Community

Testers, looking for something to do in your spare time, you might want to take a look at uTest a new pay per bug software testing community.

Anyone can sign up be a software tester and make some cash. uTest estimates that its testers will be able to rake in anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per month.

I don't know about your but I could use an extra few thousand per month. If your like me and want to find out more check out TechCrunch - uTest Now Open for Business: Get Paid to Find Software Bugs:

The startup is trying a crowdsourcing approach to testing software bugs. Anyone can sign up to test software and make some cash. uTest estimates that its testers will be able to rake in anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per month, depending on tester-expertise and bug pricing.

It is important to note that bug prices will fluctuate in real-time based on a variety of parameters, including: Bug type (logical, GUI), type of application (Web, desktop), number of testers that fit the required profile for the testing environment, bugs left to find, and more.

Over 2000 testers from around the world have already signed-up, so it seems the company’s pay-per-bug model is resonating well across testing professionals.

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Be Careful What You Post Online, The World Is Watching!

For year's I have told my teenagers and their friends to be careful what they post online in Facebook or on other such services because, I know that between Google making what amounts to a continuous history and the retention polices of the sites themselves, there is really no such thing as deleting a post after it has been exposed for anytime online.

Proving my point, is an article in today's New York Times called How Sticky Is Membership on Facebook? Just Try Breaking Free. In it MARIA ASPAN states:

Some users have discovered that it is nearly impossible to remove themselves entirely from Facebook, setting off a fresh round of concern over the popular social network’s use of personal data.

While the Web site offers users the option to deactivate their accounts, Facebook servers keep copies of the information in those accounts indefinitely. Indeed, many users who have contacted Facebook to request that their accounts be deleted have not succeeded in erasing their records from the network.

“It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan, who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account this fall. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

It took Mr. Das about two months and several e-mail exchanges with Facebook’s customer service representatives to erase most of his information from the site, which finally occurred after he sent an e-mail threatening legal action. But even after that, a reporter was able to find Mr. Das’s empty profile on Facebook and successfully sent him an e-mail message through the network.

In response to difficulties faced by ex-Facebook members, a cottage industry of unofficial help pages devoted to escaping Facebook has sprung up online — both outside and inside the network.

“I thought it was kind of strange that they save your information without telling you in a really clear way,” said Magnus Wallin, a 26-year-old patent examiner in Stockholm who founded a Facebook group, “How to permanently delete your facebook account.” The group has almost 4,300 members and is steadily growing.

The technological hurdles set by Facebook have a business rationale: they allow ex-Facebookers who choose to return the ability to resurrect their accounts effortlessly. According to an e-mail message from Amy Sezak, a spokeswoman for Facebook, “Deactivated accounts mean that a user can reactivate at any time and their information will be available again just as they left it.”

But it also means that disenchanted users cannot disappear from the site without leaving footprints. Facebook’s terms of use state that “you may remove your user content from the site at any time,” but also that “you acknowledge that the company may retain archived copies of your user content.”

Its privacy policy says that after someone deactivates an account, “removed information may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time.”

Facebook’s Web site does not inform departing users that they must delete information from their account in order to close it fully — meaning that they may unwittingly leave anything from e-mail addresses to credit card numbers sitting on Facebook servers.

Only people who contact Facebook’s customer service department are informed that they must painstakingly delete, line by line, all of the profile information, “wall” messages and group memberships they may have created within Facebook.

“Users can also have their account completely removed by deleting all of the data associated with their account and then deactivating it,” Ms. Sezak said in her message. “Users can then write to Facebook to request their account be deleted and their e-mail will be completely erased from the database.”

But even users who try to delete every piece of information they have ever written, sent or received via the network have found their efforts to permanently leave stymied. Other social networking sites like MySpace and Friendster, as well as online dating sites like eHarmony.com, may require departing users to confirm their wishes several times — but in the end they offer a delete option.

So if you have MySpace or Facebook account, be careful what you post, as it can and very well may be retrieved by friends, family or even potential employers.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

IBM Releases 2007 X-Force Security Report, Hackers Are Gaining Sophistication

I spend a lot of time speaking my mind on the security problems the Information Technology sector faces in today's world, but I'm not alone, Help Net Security has a nice post detailing the findings of IBM's 2007 X-Force Security report. Today's IBM report revealed a disturbing rise in the sophistication of attacks by criminals on Web.

Check out this from Help Net Security - Report - Web browsers under siege from organized crime:

The Storm Worm, the most pervasive Internet attack last year, continues to infect computers around the world through a culmination of the threats the X-Force tracks, including malicious software (malware), spam and phishing. Last year, delivery of malware was at an all time high, as X-Force reported a 30 percent rise in the number of malcode samples identified. The Storm Worm comprised around 13 percent of the entire malcode set collected in 2007.

In other findings, for the first time ever, the size of spam emails decreased sharply to pre-2005 levels. X-Force believes the decrease is linked to the drop off of image-based spam. This decrease can be counted as a win for the security industry - as anti-spam technologies became more efficient at detecting image-based spam, spammers were forced to turn to new techniques.

The X-Force has been cataloguing, analysing and researching vulnerability disclosures since 1997. With more than 33,000 security vulnerabilities catalogued, it has the largest vulnerability database in the world. This unique database helps X-Force researchers to understand the dynamics that make up vulnerability discovery and disclosure.

The new X-Force report from IBM also reveals that:
  • The number of critical computer security vulnerabilities disclosed increased by 28 percent, a substantial upswing from years past.
  • The overall number of vulnerabilities reported for the year went down for the first time in 10 years.
  • Out of all the vulnerabilities disclosed last year, only 50 percent can be corrected through vendor patches.
  • Nearly 90 percent of 2007 disclosed vulnerabilities are remotely exploitable.

IBM estimates the Storm worm is netting just under $2 million per day for its creators which is a major incentive for hackers to create more and more similar attacks. The Worm's financial success comes the massive collection of autonomously running computers (botnet) which then launch profitable spam campaigns.

I have to admit if I were a little less scrupulous I would be tempted!!

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Programmers Guild: BusinessWeek exposes how Industry really uses H-1b workers

If you've read my blog you know that I believe the H-1B program is the source of the decline of the I.T. profession in the United States and the destruction of the I.T education system in the United States, and I would be remiss if I didn't bring you the latest stories on the H-1b program and how is is used and abused by America's I.T. industry, so I submit for your reading two stories on the issue.

Programmers Guild: BusinessWeek exposes how Industry really uses H-1b workers:

Listening to Compete America one would think that H-1b workers are the "best and brightest" in the world, contributing to "U.S. global competiveness." But as the 1/31/08 BusinessWeek article "Are H-1B Workers Getting Bilked?" exposes, H-1b are being used by Indian consulting firms to bring in cheap labor, driving American consulting firms out of business, and displacing highly-skilled U.S. workers.

First, Indian consulting firm Patni undercut American workers when DOL approved the labor condition applications for a "prevailing wage" of $44,000 per year. This is far below the "$45 to $80 per hour" that the Yoh study found to be the average for U.S. workers with "high demand" skills, such as "Database Administrator" and "Application Developer."

What Patni didn't disclose was that the $44,000 "salary" presumed that their workers put in lots of overtime. Their base pay was only $11.72 an hour - they were expected to reach their "salary" by working overtime. But even with 23 days of overtime, one H-1b's annual pay worked out to only $35,305 in 2004.

As State Farm in Bloomington Illinois was laying off their American staff, the LCA Database reveals that Patni Computer Systems was bringing in hundreds of Indians on H-1b visas - many placed at State Farm. As mandated by the U.S. Congress, the Department of Labor rubber-stamped these LCAs (labor condition applications) for wages as low as $27,000 for computer programmers. H-1b workers must have a minimum of a BS degree and specialized skills.

Many of the LCAs were filed by Dayanand Allapur, Vice President HRD 617-914-8367. Patni's main number Cambridge, MA is 617-914-8000

Among the Americans who lost their jobs was George Moraetes. He reports having "seen 4 - 5 H1-b's living in a one bedroom apartment" and that the same pattern of H-1b usage was employed by GE.

Contrary to helping the U.S. remain "globally competitive," the top users of the H-1b program are Indian consulting firms. They are transferring U.S. jobs and technology back to India and increasing the U.S. trade deficit. Without the H-1b and L-1 visa programs much of this loss of U.S. tech leadership would not be possible.

Patni is headquartered in Mumbai, India. Their website provides roadmaps for transferring manufacturing offshore: http://www.patni.com/

The U.S. Congress needs to wake up to the imminent threat posed to the U.S. economy by shipping our manufacturing to China and now services to India. Or economy cannot sustain this growing trade deficit and gutting of U.S. infrastructure.

Businessweek - Are H-1B Workers Getting Bilked?

A few years ago, Vishal Goel had high hopes of moving from his native India to the U.S. to work as a computer programmer. He approached Patni Computer Systems, a Mumbai company that provides tech services to many American businesses, and Patni agreed to apply for a U.S. work visa on his behalf. By 2004, Goel was in Bloomington, Ill., working for Patni at State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, the largest car insurer in the country.

But this was no dream job come true. Goel's base salary was $23,310, about half the $44,000 that Patni had said it would pay on the visa application, according to a lawsuit he has filed against the company. When Goel complained, one official said that Patni would brand him a "troublemaker" and that his parents in India would be harassed unless he stopped, the suit alleges. Goel, who left Patni in 2005, filed suit in November, 2007, in federal court in Illinois. He's suing along with a former colleague, Peeush Goyal, who alleges he was subjected to similar treatment. Patni declined to comment, though in court documents it denies the charges.

Goel's is not an isolated case. A number of the most active users of the work-visa program, for what are known as H-1B visas, have been accused of underpaying or otherwise mistreating workers. Last year, Patni paid $2.4 million to 607 H-1B visa workers after a Labor Dept. investigation uncovered systematic underpayment of wages. "I highly suspect that these employment practices are widespread among the tech-outsourcing firms," says Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, who will testify as an expert witness in the Goel case.

The Goel lawsuit is one of the first filed in U.S. courts by a visa worker against his employer, perhaps because of the murky legal status of such workers. The estimated 500,000 people in the U.S. on H-1Bs are by definition citizens of other nations, and they're usually beholden to employers that can transfer them home at will. The Goel case provides rare insight into how one outfit allegedly has treated workers it brings into the U.S.

SIMPLE GREED

In their case, Goel and Goyal say that Patni regularly underpays employees in the U.S. "This forces the same financially strapped individuals ... to incur the expense of retaining an attorney to try and obtain the money to which they are entitled," the suit charges. If workers complain, the plaintiffs say, Patni threatens to sue them. They charge that Patni's motivation is simple greed. "The more H-1B employees that Patni is underpaying, the more total profit that is made by Patni," the suit alleges.

Goel, Goyal, and their lawyer, Thomas J. Arkell, declined to comment for this article because the litigation is ongoing. Patni says in court papers it didn't promise Goel $44,000 and says he has no "right to action" because he has no claim under the laws cited in the case.

The Goel lawsuit raises questions for U.S. workers, too. The H-1B program requires companies that bring employees into the U.S. to pay the prevailing wage in that job, so as not to depress the salaries of Americans in similar occupations. Documents filed in the suit appear to show that Patni told the Labor Dept. it would pay Goel a base salary of $44,000, which it said was more than the $43,867 prevailing wage it determined for a midlevel programmer and analyst. Yet even after working the equivalent of 23 days of overtime at $11.72 an hour, Goel earned a total of $35,305 in 2004. "Patni's underpayment of wages not only harms its H-1B employees but also harms the wages of U.S. employees," the lawsuit charges.

Many prominent U.S. companies use outsourcers, especially for tech services and support. Patni's largest client is General Electric (GE). Others include MetLife (MET) and St. Jude Medical. GE and MetLife declined to comment on Patni and whether they monitor how it manages its workers. St. Jude says it advocates for contract workers who file complaints, although no Patni workers have done so.

State Farm has turned increasingly to Patni and is now its No. 2 client. Dick Luedke, a State Farm spokesman, says that visa workers receive fair treatment. "Working conditions at all our State Farm locations are monitored and maintained without distinction of State Farm or vendor employee," he says. "We of course negotiate how much we pay the vendor; what the vendor does to get the work done is up to the vendor." According to the Goel suit, State Farm paid Patni "in excess of" $100,000 per worker.

State Farm has had layoffs as it has brought in Patni workers. Outplacement specialist Challenger, Gray & Christmas says the insurer has let go 10,000 workers nationwide since 1995, though Luedke says only one quarter of those were "involuntary severances." He says Patni employees have not replaced staffers and the insurer's own IT staff has risen from 5,500 in 1995 to 5,900 in 2007. Luedke says State Farm doesn't track how many outsourced workers it uses.

George Moraetes is a U.S. worker who believes he was affected by the H1-B program. A specialist in info tech security, he worked at State Farm from 2002 to 2004, when the company declined to extend his contract. Now in Chicago, he's unable to find a staff position in his specialty. "The whole industry is being outsourced and contracted," he says. "The American IT worker is a dying breed."

Moraetes has empathy, not anger, for employees such as Goel who come to the U.S. on H-1Bs. "The workers are living in squalor," he says. "I feel sorry for them."

The H-1B program could get an overhaul later this year. Senators Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) have proposed reforms because of what they consider widespread abuse. "There are simply too many loopholes that companies can use to get around the original intent of the H-1B visa," says Grassley in an e-mail.

As for Goel, he hasn't given up on his dream of living in the U.S. He's in California with another employer serving as his visa sponsor. His case is expected to go to trial later this year.

Wake up American, we cannot remain great if we have to depend on other countries to educate and supply people so critical to our economies wellbeing.

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Presidential candidates positions on tech positions

As the presidential candidate pools shrinks their positions on issues important to us techies become more and more important. To feed your need to know check out

InfoWorlds - Presidential candidates stake out tech positions:

Senator Hillary Clinton
New York Democrat Clinton, like other candidates, hasn't made tech issues a central part of her campaign, but she has championed an " innovation agenda" as one of her top issues. That agenda includes several policies that many large tech companies have embraced.

Clinton wants to pump up the basic research budgets at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the Department of Defense by 50 percent over 10 years.

She also would require that federal research agencies set aside at least 8 percent of their research budgets for discretionary funding of high-risk research, and she would increase funding for research on Internet- and IT-based tools, including supercomputing and simulation software.

"Under the Bush administration, agencies like the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have reduced support for truly revolutionary research," Clinton's Web site says. "This is a problem because DARPA has played a major role in maintaining America's economic and military leadership. DARPA backed such projects as the Internet, stealth technology, and the Global Positioning System."

Clinton also wants tax incentives to encourage broadband providers to deploy services in underserved areas. She has called for federal support of state and local broadband programs, including municipal broadband projects. Clinton has also called for a research-and-development tax credit, extended temporarily multiple times since 1981, to be made permanent.

Clinton has said she would support net neutrality regulations for U.S. broadband providers.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee
Huckabee, an Arkansas Republican and ordained Baptist minister, has largely ignored tech issues during his campaign.

He has, however, called for an increase in immigrant visas for highly skilled and highly educated workers, a position shared by many large tech companies. Otherwise, Huckabee would largely shut down U.S. borders to immigrants.

Instead of technology, Huckabee has focused on social issues such as making abortion illegal and defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Huckabee also wants the United States to achieve independence from oil-producing nations.

Senator John McCain
The Arizona Republican is a longtime member of the Senate Commerce Committee. As such, he can argue that he has the most tech policy experience of any of the remaining major-party candidates.

In recent years, McCain has pushed for a nationwide voice and data network for public safety agencies. He was one of the Senate's leading voices in the effort to get U.S. television stations to give up part of their analog spectrum for use by police and fire departments. The rest of that spectrum is being sold in the FCC's auctions now under way.

McCain has been noncommittal about net neutrality laws. He's said he'd be concerned if Internet users' access is blocked, but he's also suggested broadband carriers need to recoup their investments.

McCain last year also called for an increase in government research and development spending, and he's said he'd draft "the best and the brightest" of American CEOs to work in his administration if he were elected, including Cisco Systems' John Chambers and Microsoft's Steve Ballmer.

He has also supported efforts to make an Internet tax moratorium permanent, recently calling the Internet "likely the most popular invention since the light bulb." In 2004, he urged the Federal Trade Commission to focus more of its efforts on fighting spam.

In 2005, McCain split from many other Republicans by authoring legislation that would prohibit states from outlawing municipal broadband projects. McCain said then he was concerned that the United States has fallen behind more than a dozen other countries on broadband adoption.

Senator Barack Obama
The Illinois Democrat in November released an extensive tech policy paper, earning him praise from several tech groups.

Obama gets technology, said Julius Genachowski, co-founder of Rock Creek Ventures and a longtime friend. "He will be a true 21st-century president, using technology to improve the lives of all Americans," Genachowski said at a tech forum last week.

In the tech agenda, Obama called for net neutrality regulations for broadband carriers. "Users must be free to access content, to use applications, and to attach personal devices," he said in his tech policy.

Parents need better tools and information to control what their children see on the Internet and television, he said.

He called for greater privacy protections for all U.S. residents, including Internet users, and he said government and businesses should be held accountable for privacy violations. He wants an update of government surveillance laws that allow intelligence-gathering on U.S. citizens to be done "only under the rule of law."

Obama would also increase the Federal Trade Commission's enforcement budget and focus increased international cooperation to track down cybercriminals.

Obama also wants to make government data more available online. He would revamp a number of existing programs and create some new ones to help roll out broadband in the United States. He called for a review of wireless spectrum use in the United States and said he would "confront the entrenched Washington interests that have kept our public airwaves from being maximized for the public's interest."

He has pledged to make the research-and-development tax credit permanent. He also called for patent reform, primarily by giving the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office more resources to improve patent quality.

Former Governor Mitt Romney
Romney, a Massachusetts Republican, hasn't made many tech issues a central part of his campaign, but he has focused on U.S. competitiveness, a popular issue for many IT companies.

Romney's competitiveness initiative would seek to improve U.S. schools and at the same time cut individual and corporate tax rates. He wants to improve worker retraining programs by consolidating and streamlining numerous federal programs.

He has taken positions on a couple of other tech-related issues as well. In interviews Romney has expressed support for a permanent Internet tax ban, and he's said he supports free trade, a position echoed by many large tech vendors.

Romney has also said he would support an increase in H-1B visas for high-skilled workers.

"I like the idea of the best and brightest in the world coming here," he told the TechCrunch blog in November. "I'd rather have them come here permanently rather than come and go, but I believe our visa program is designed to help us solve gaps in our employment pool. Where there are individuals who have skills that we do not have in abundance here, I'd like to bring them here and contribute to our economy."

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Where Are I.T. Budgets Increasing? The Federal Government Of Course

In todays I.T. environment of shrinking budgets, it might be a good time to look around at where I.T. budgets might actually be growing and the guys at ZDNet have done at least some of our work for us, and guess what they found in the new federal budget released yesterday. There are branches within the government with big boosts in spending check out ZDNet - Parsing the federal budget: The tech highlights:

President Bush unveiled his $3.1 trillion–yes trillion–fiscal 2009 budget and there are a lot of technology highlights to go around.

Whether this budget ever gets approved anywhere near its current state remains to be seen (fiscal 2008’s budget isn’t official), but directionally there are some key highlights. Among the items that may warrant further inspection.

The National Science Foundation is recommended to receive $397 million for nanotechnology research and facilities to understand “those devices and materials with revolutionary properties.”

The budget also recommends that the NSF gets:

$1.1 billion for fundamental information technology research and cutting-edge supercomputing and networking resources, including: $100 million, an 110-percent increase, for an NSF-wide effort to develop radically new computational concepts and tools; and $30 million for a new targeted cyber-security research effort in privacy, fundamental theory, and usability.

Overall, the NSF’s 2009 budget is an estimated $6.85 billion, up from $6 billion estimated for 2008.

The Department of Veteran Affairs is getting a major IT spending bump. The VA’s IT spending was $1.2 billion in 2007 and is slated to jump to $1.98 billion in 2008. In fiscal 2009, the VA is slated for $2.44 billion.

NASA has a $1 billion fiscal 2009 budget for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, a piloted spacecraft to land anywhere on the Moon. Another $1 billion is for the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle–the rocket that will launch Orion. NASA is expected to blow $5.1 billion on operating the International Space Station and flying the Space Shuttle to the station in 2009.

The Department of Commerce budget “provides $634 million for investments in quantum and neutron research, nanotechnology, and related scientific work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a 20-percent increase over the 2008 enacted level, excluding earmarks and unrequested grants.”

And as previously noted, US-CERT is getting $242 million to better monitor cyberattacks.


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Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Work From Home" Generation Lists Good And Bad

The ReadWriteWeb blog has come up with their lists of both good things and bad thinks about working at home, It's a good read for any one currently working from home or wishing they were.

It might just strike a nerve, here are the highlights, each explained in detail in their post.

The Good things About Working from Home

1. No commute
2. Flexibility
3. Saving money and the environment
4. Increased productivity

The Bad Things About Working from Home
1. Brainstorming is difficult
2. You never leave work
3. Entropy is after you
For more read, The "Work From Home" Generation - ReadWriteWeb:
For decades in American households the most dreaded morning sound was that of an alarm clock. Sometime between 6 and 7am a beep or radio music signaled that it was time to get up and head to work. But in the early 21st century two things have begun to change. First, the alarm clock is going off a little bit later. And second, instead of putting on suits and driving to work, people are heading to the basement in their pajamas and turning on their personal computers. These are the early days of the new Work From Home generation.

With the invention of modern laptops, ubiqity of broadband Internet access, and advances in communication software, there is no longer a need to be in the office. At least not everyday. Thousands of companies are rolling out work from home policies and hundreds of thousands of people are starting to take advantage of them. What are the pros and cons of working from home? In this post we take a close look, as well as discuss what lies ahead for this new, rapidly growing generation.

....

What's Next?

There are certainly challenges to working from home, but the benefits out-weigh them for many people. More companies and people are beginning to discover that working from home does more good than bad, as it introduces flexibility into people's schedule without impacting their productivity. The bottom line is that things get done and people are happier.

In terms of innovation and the technologies that are likely to evolve to help support work from home environments, there are several areas. We have previously written about basic software for virtual teams, as well as how to assemble an online office. But there is still certainly a lot of room for better tools for the at home workforce. From better brainstorming tools to video conferencing there are opportunities to innovate to make virtual collaboration smooth and painless.

And now, as always, we'd love to hear your input. Are you working from home now? If not, would you like to? What do you think are the pros and cons of working from home?

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The Over 50 Worker, Is Their Room In Information Technology?

I'm a big fan of Diane Stafford, and what she has to say about the value of the older worker, maybe because I'm resembling one more and more every day. The older worker has a lot to offer, especially in the information technology field, but I.T employers are more interested in the current training of employee, not their experience.

Talk a look at her post Workspace by Diane Stafford: Seeking the over-50 worker:

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a careers column for The Kansas City Star about the AARP program that lists employers deemed to be open to hiring older workers.

Judging from followup calls and e-mails, there are plenty of over-50 workers in frustrating job searches. I heard quite a bit of skepticism that the companies would actually hire them.

That may be the case, but here's my take on the list: No employer would set itself up as an older-worker-friendly company if it didn't actually intend to spend the time and money following through with considering applications fairly.

What's in it for them by saying they're open to hiring the over-50s if they're really not? They're just setting themselves to get a bucketload of resumes, and most companies, thanks to the internet, already are suffering from an excess of applicants. Why invite more, especially when they know they're appealing to a job-hunting group that feels shut out in the broad job market.

So, I'll take the list at its promised face value -- as a resource tool for the older job hunter. And I'll share the latest news about the AARP list: They've added some more employers.

Three of the new entries are federal government agencies: The Peace Corps, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Disaster Relief. (Federal job openings are listed and searchable at www.usajobs.gov.)

New private-sector employers on the AARP list are: AnswerNet, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Home Instead Senior Care, Scripps Health, Synergy HomeCare, and Vedior North America.

http://www.aarp.org/money/careers/findingajob/featuredemployers/info.html is the site for the AARP list.


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Times Is Predicting a I.T. Belt Tightening This Year

Well, Looks like it's Belt Tightening time again, the New York Times is reporting that Tech spending won't grow at the rate that it has the past few years, about 7% and will instead be held to a much more modest increase of about 4%.

I wonder what clued them in, perhaps last weeks global stock drop?

I personally think that as time goes on this year, the movement to cloud computing, which means massive consolidation of computing resources with make up most if not all of the missing 3%. So I for one don't believe that hard times are coming through out the industry.

Check out the story in New York Times - Belt-Tightening, but No Collapse, Is Forecast in Technology Spending:

In the consumer economy, the Main Street shopper leads the way. In the corporate economy, big technology buyers like Monte Ford will determine the arc of business spending in the coming months.

The decisions of Mr. Ford, the chief information officer of American Airlines, and his peers across corporate America matter a lot, because information technology looms so large in the modern economy. Today, purchases of computer hardware and software account for half of all capital spending by businesses.

Will falling corporate investment be the next shoe to drop on the way to a recession, or will it hold up enough to help steady the economy?

The outlook is encouraging, according to corporate technology buyers and industry analysts. There will surely be belt-tightening, and cuts may be sharp in some industries, especially the financial sector. Overall growth in technology spending may fall from 7 percent last year to 4 percent or less this year, according to estimates by IDC, a research firm.

That would be in sharp contrast to the experience of the 2001 recession, when technology spending fell 11 percent over two years in the aftermath of the dot-com collapse. During the boom years, the mentality was to spend on technology and hope for a payoff. But in recent years, corporate technology managers have been far more disciplined spenders, measuring results to prove that investments in technology really can cut costs, increase productivity and lift sales.

So the cutbacks in this downturn, analysts say, should be modest — reassuring news for the economy. “This is a reason for optimism that if there is a recession, it will be a mild one,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com.

At American Airlines, a unit of AMR, Mr. Ford doubts that the current downturn could be worse for the airlines than the falloff after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — “a gigantic economic crack for our industry,” he said. The company decided then that despite cutbacks elsewhere, it would not sharply pare its technology budget. This year, he plans to spend modestly more — a few percent — than last year.

To explain, Mr. Ford points to three major costs for an airline: people, planes and fuel. “Technology remains the best lever for getting more value from all those, making your employees more productive, making better use of your fleet and increasing your fuel efficiency,” he said.

That view, Mr. Ford said, is supported by results. A fuel efficiency drive begun in 2005, including software to tailor routes, flight paths, even baggage loading, has reduced fuel consumption by an estimated 96 million gallons a year.

At Pitney Bowes, a maker of mail handling equipment and marketing services, Gregory E. Buoncontri, the chief information officer, expects his budget this year to be roughly $180 million, about the same as last year. Despite the economic slowdown, Pitney Bowes will make some targeted new investments that the senior management team has agreed are priorities to help the company become more competitive. The priority projects, Mr. Buoncontri said, include analytics programs that sort through customer data to predict promising sales opportunities and to improve customer service.

“You only want to start projects you are dead-serious about,” he said. “A downturn really heightens that discipline.”

To make room for spending on new things, managers must make cuts in the spending for basic operations. The preferred way to do that is to trim the budget for routine things like replacing personal computers, issuing employees mobile devices like BlackBerrys and putting off upgrades to new desktop software like Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system or Office 2007 programs.

“You adopt the mentality of a small-business owner for those kinds of things — you just want to avoid writing a check,” said Jack Santos, an analyst at the Burton Group, a technology research firm.

In a survey of 300 chief information officers last month, IDC found that personal computers and mobile devices were the hardware products that would face spending cuts first, said Stephen Minton, an IDC analyst. The software products at the top of the budget-cutting list were office programs and desktop operating systems.

Microsoft this week reported strong quarterly results, led by its big desktop software businesses. But the C.I.O. survey suggests a slowdown in sales, especially in the United States, if the economy falters.

Technology spending, if managed prudently, can also deliver new abilities and productivity without more dollars, executives say. With processing speeds and storage capacity doubling every 18 months or so, each generation of technology is faster, cheaper and smaller than its predecessor.

So, according to Frank Modruson, chief information officer for Accenture, a real danger during an economic downturn is adopting a rigid austerity that saddles a company with technology that is behind the curve. Steady investment, he said, can save money fairly quickly because of the rapid pace of improvement in computing technology.

Accenture, a technology services company, spends less on technology today than it did in 2001, even though its payroll has more than doubled to 175,000 employees worldwide. “The reason we could do that is that we invested during the last downturn,” Mr. Modruson said.

Companies are likely to find that it is smart to make new investments as long as their overall technology spending is under control. In a recent survey of large companies, Gartner found that technology budgets have increased an average of 2.8 percent annually in the last three years. By contrast, spending at those companies in the three years leading up to the 2001 recession had grown 12.9 percent a year.

“Information technology spending,” said Mark McDonald, an analyst at Gartner, “is not the rich target for cuts that it was in 2001.”

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