Saturday, September 29, 2007

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Following up on my post Both Too Little Or Too Much Sleep Is Bad For Health, I've found a web page that will help you evaluate if you are getting enough sleep, Check out the BBC's Sleep page:

On it you be able to:

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FBI Investigating Unisys For Not Preventing Hacker Intrusions

Following up yesterdays post, Gap Analysis - Blame It On The Contractor, TechDirt is reporting FBI Investigating Unisys For Not Preventing US Gov't Computers From Getting Hacked.

So it appears that we have yet another blame the security "GAP" on the Contractor, this time we have the FBI investigating Unisys, the contractor, for allowing the Chinese hackers to break in U.S. Defense Department Computers.

Is the U.S. Defense Department admitting here, that they are technically incapable of setting up and maintaining security standards on their own computers, and they rely on contractors to set, and maintain the security standards. If that is the case, we all need to be afraid, very afraid.

These are the same people responsible for maintaining the security around our Nuclear Arsenal. What happens the next time Chinese hackers access Defense Department computers, could make 9/11 look like an Ice Cream Social.

All this while our government ignores these security problems and are more interested in whether or not Iran's crazy president should be allowed to address a few equally crazy liberal faculty and students at Columbia University.

I think the reason they are more interested in other items is that they fail to recognize the seriousness of the threat, similar to congresses lack of interest in al-Qaeda prior to 9/11. As technology advances and level data concentration increases, the level of severity is likely to increase as well.

With this intrusion, we see the Chinese going from thefts of our technology to trying to gain active access to our command and control systems. And this isn't the first time we have detected breakins, Symantec reports, China ranks second behind the U.S. as far as malicious activity on the Internet as a whole. And earlier this week we found out that it was possible for hackers to "Burn Out" a power plant by causing an overload.

The U.S. Government needs to wakeup the severity of the security problems we are currently having and be made aware just how terrible they could get. Then government needs to get serious in mandating information security protocols on sensitive material both public and private.

Until they do, I know I'm going to sleep a little less secure at night, how about you?

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Gap Analysis - Blame It On The Contractor

InfoWorld is reporting in Gap contractor blamed for data breach by Robert McMillan that two laptops containing the personal data of 800,000 job applicants have been stolen, but instead of blaming their security procedures Gap is blaming an "unnamed contractor". Robert says :

On Friday, Gap said the data had been stored on two laptop computers that were stolen from the vendor's offices. Although the job applicant information on the laptop -- which included Social Security numbers -- was supposed to be encrypted, it was not.

Gap's online job site is run by Taleo, but on Friday, Taleo said that it wasn't responsible for the breach. "The data loss involved a Gap vendor that processes job applicant data. Taleo was not the vendor involved in this data loss," the company said in a statement.

Gap learned of the theft on Sept. 19, the company said in a letter sent to those affected.

Still, "the company has no reason to believe the data contained on the computer was the target of the theft or that the personal information had been accessed or used improperly," Gap said in a statement.

The laptop had information on people who applied for positions at Gap stores, including Banana Republic and Old Navy, between July 2006 and June 2007. Gap has set up a Web site to assist those who may have been affected by the breach. Victims are being offered one year of credit monitoring and fraud resolution assistance.

This episode illustrates an ever increasing problem, as technology advances and data becomes more and more concentrated the larger and larger the data breaches will become. Ten years ago an entire database of 800, 000 job applicants would not have likely been on a laptop because it wouldn't have fit, ten years from now a laptop might have a database of every taxpayer in the country.

If we are going to successfully manage these technological leaps, we need to rethink our data safeguards. We need to ask why the job applicant database was on the laptop, instead of a encrypted version or a mockup, most likely the database as there for development purposes, and not for production backup. And the reason, a live version instead of a mockup or an encrypted version, probably because it was easier creating a proper dataset.

The Gap can't just pass off the blame on contractors, if it takes government regulation and fines to prevent this type of security "Gap" then that is what we need to do, and the sooner the better. As I have said, as technology advances the breaches will continue to get larger and larger.

Related Post: FBI Investigating Unisys For Not Preventing Hacker Intrusions

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I. T. Boomers, Some Companies Are Worried About Retirement, Some Aren't

I. T. Boomers, some companies pay to get rid of them, and some go out their way to keep them.

Unlike, EDS, who is actually paying their Baby Boomers to retire early, other I.T. companies are worrying that when there Baby Boomers start retiring over next 10 years a skills shortage will develop, particularly in the Mainframe realm. And those forward looking companies are taking steps to make sure they keep their most knowledgeable workers around as long as possible.

In eWeek: Keeping the 50+ Work Force in the House, Deborah Perelman states:

The 50-plus group doesn't necessarily want the kind of workplace they've always had, and companies desperate to keep them in the fold are providing them with as many accommodations and perks as they can.

Barbara Santella, manager of staffing and university relations at Westinghouse, knows all about this looming skills-gap crisis.

"While many companies are faced with an ageing work force, the energy work force is especially hard hit. A lot of our knowledge is with the most senior members of the work force. Twenty percent of Westinghouse's work force could retire today if they wish. Fifty percent will be eligible in the next five years," said Santella at a session on the 50+ work force at the U.S. Chamber's ICW (Institute for a Competitive Workforce) at its annual Education and Workforce Summit, Sept. 25 in Washington D.C.

Westinghouse can't just recruit from its local community because it requires a very specific set of the labor pool. The majority of its employees are engineers.

"They possess years of knowledge. It's not day-to-day work knowledge, but knowledge in their heads we have to get out before they leave or hold them there until we can put a program in place to transfer their knowledge," said Santella.

Santella's company is instead focusing on a retention program, and her group has constructed an elaborate one.

"We hold retirement seminars for people 50-plus, so they can start planning early on. We ask them to give us an idea of when they feel they might retire. Then we go through and identify what the critical skills and knowledge they have. Once we identify that they have critical skills, we work on retention and knowledge transfer," said Santella.

To keep these key employees from leaving, Westinghouse offers a number of benefits, from flextime to alternative work schedules; alternative workplace rules have also been established so they can log in from home on a part- or full-time basis. Employees who don't want to work full-time anymore can opt for reduced work hours.

But more radically, Westinghouse is trying to make the workplace itself more appealing to older workers.

"They don't want to sit in a cube and just process information all day anymore, so we've tried to set up challenging situations for them. They mentor new employees as they come in, and we also have them direct and lead groups that discuss knowledge on a topic. We've also boosted service awards, where the higher up you go in your years of service, the bigger the gift you get. Some people are really holding out for those one-carat earrings or the Westinghouse watch," said Santella.

So what do you do if your company can't jump through hoops, but are concerned about what happens mainframers retire, after all they aren't exactly growing them on trees these days, experts from Forrester Research has suggested looking to the eastern block for mainframe help. While I recommend taking a look at Compuware's ELM program.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Both Too Little Or Too Much Sleep Is Bad For Health

The I.T. industry maybe more than any other is just filled positions where its members go through long periods of extremely long stress filled hours and conversely others where workers have little to do. Because of this we should pay careful attention to a recent study of Briton government workers age between 35 and 55, reported in Reuters: Lack of sleep may be deadly, research shows. The article reports:

People who do not get enough sleep are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease, according to a large British study released on Monday.

Although the reasons are unclear, researchers said lack of sleep appeared to be linked to increased blood pressure, which is known to raise the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

A 17-year analysis of 10,000 government workers showed those who cut their sleeping from seven hours a night to five or less faced a 1.7-fold increased risk in mortality from all causes and more than double the risk of cardiovascular death.

The findings highlight a danger in busy modern lifestyles, Francesco Cappuccio, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Warwick's medical school, told the annual conference of the British Sleep Society in Cambridge.

But the same study also found :

The correlation with cardiovascular risk in those who slept less in the 1990s than in the 1980s was clear but, curiously, there was also a higher mortality rate in people who increased their sleeping to more than nine hours.

So it appears that too little or too much sleep is decremental to our health, or in other words there does appear that there is a optimal amount of sleep for our health. Controls placed on the study would appear to be adequate in the results were adjusted to take account of other possible risk factors such as initial age, sex, smoking and alcohol consumption, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Finding the optimal amount of sleep appears to be in the range of 7 to 8 hours per night as we have all been told since childhood. Unfortunately, getting any closer to finding the optimum length of sleep appears to be unique to the individual and the individuals situation. We sleep better some nights than others, so where 7 hours might be optimal one night, 7 hours might not be enough the next.

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EDS cuts 11% of U.S. Workforce.

You don't need to look very far to see more and more examples of U.S. I.T. companies shedding higher cost U.S. workers and replacing them with outsourced foreign I.T. workers. The latest guilty party, outsourcing giant EDS.

EDS said in a Sept. 12 Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it will offer early retirement packages to about 12,000 U.S. employees in the fourth quarter, or more than 11 percent of its 136,000 worldwide work force. This will cost EDS between $70 to $130 million dollars, which they hope to recoup using their cheaper foreign workers in low-cost countries, including India, Brazil and the Czech Republic.

What troubles me beyond the fact that 12,000 U.S. workers are losing there jobs, is that EDS does a lot of I.T. work for the government and no doubt some of the workload being moved as part of this buyout includes work for the federal government. So, indirectly our taxes are being used to support this reprehensible act.

We have noway of knowing how much of this work involves sensitive material, and being offshore this sensitive material will be beyond the control of U.S. authorities for security purposes and we must rely on whatever safeguards EDS enforces on their offshore employees.

How many of our Social Security Numbers and other Tax Related information will be laid open for foreign eyes to use and abuse?

Want to know more about this check out
eWeeks article: EDS Offers 11% of Work Force Early Retirement

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3 Tips To Enhance Your Intellegence

"If you don't use it you lose it", and I've been told that saying applies to a lot of things, not the least brain power. Here is an article that advocates 3 tips to use your brain in slightly different ways which in theory will enhance or at least maintain your brain power.

3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Brain Power states:

1) Switch the side of your mouse-pad: Yes, it is as simple as that.

By switching the side of your mouse-pad you will force yourself to use your non-dominant hand. This, in turn, will stimulate the neural connections between the right and left hemispheres on your brain. Scientific research confirmed that people that use both hands equally have 10% more nerve fibers joining the two sides of the brain.

Ideally you want to perform as many activities as possible with your non-dominant hand, but some of them might become cumbersome. I tried to brush my teeth using my left hand for one week or so, only to find out that the tartar was building up.

Using the mouse with the opposite hand is something that you can easily integrate into your life. During the first couple of days it will feel weird, and you might need to switch back when using programs that require intense "clicking" sessions. After this adaptation phase however, you'll be navigating the computer just as efficiently with both hands.

2) Force yourself to remember things:

Sometimes you want to remember the name of a song that is playing or the name of an old acquaintance that passed by . It is right there, on the tip of your tongue, but you can't remember it. What would you normally do in such situation? Probably ask some nearby friend for the name, and upon the revelation you will even shout marveled, "Oh yeah! That is it."

The next time this happens force yourself to remember that name. The brain can be stimulated just like your muscles and the more you exercise it the stronger it will get.

Do not limit yourself to remembering names. Are you calling your mother to get the phone number of your uncle? Forget pen and paper - you can memorize it. Try to look at the keyboard of your phone in order to create a mental picture of what the sequence of numbers looks like.

The worse that can happens is that you will need to call your mom again...

3) Play games that involve some thinking:

You don't need to participate in the Mathematical Olympic Games in order to stretch your brain capabilities. Oh no, games and activities as simple as sudoku or crosswords will already have a tangible impact upon your brain performance.

Regularity is very important here, so try to incorporate these games or exercises into your routine. You could bring a crosswords book with you on the daily commute, for instance. Personally I like to play a chess match every day before I start working. It takes around 15 minutes, but it ensures that my brain gets a kick-start every morning.
From a physiological standpoint doing things differently should indeed activate areas of the brain that are normally dormant so there may be something to this argument or it could just be wishful thinking. On the other hand it doesn't hurt to give it a try, at the very least, you may avoid or ease Repetitive Stress Injury by mousing with your opposite hand.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Programmers, Overtime, Huh??

Business Week has an interesting post on non traditional workers suing and getting overtime pay. Check out More workers suing over overtime pay By Michael Orey

In the article, Michael states:

About 115 million employees — 86 percent of the workforce — are covered by federal overtime rules, according to the U.S. Labor Dept. The rules apply to salaried and hourly workers alike. Plenty of wage and hour lawsuits are filed on behalf of the traditional working class, be they truckers, construction laborers, poultry processors, or restaurant workers. But no one has been more successful than Thierman in collecting overtime for employees who are far from the factory floor or fast-food kitchen. His biggest settlements over the last two years have been on behalf of stockbrokers, many of whom earn well into the six figures. Thierman has teamed up with other lawyers to extract settlements totaling about a half-billion dollars from brokerage firms, including $98 million from Citigroup's Smith Barney and $87 million from UBS Financial Services Inc. (As is typical in settlements, the companies do not admit liability.) With those cases drawing to a close, he and other attorneys already are pursuing new claims on behalf of computer workers, pharmaceutical sales reps, and accounting firm staff.

As Thierman sees it, these are the rank and file of a white-collar proletariat. "In the 1940s and 1950s," he writes in an e-mail, "a large portion of American workers who were protected by overtime laws seem to have been forgotten as inflation drove up the absolute (not the relative) amount of compensation, and the bulk of workers began wearing sports coats and processing information instead of wearing coveralls and processing widgets." In a subsequent interview he says: "I'm interested in the middle class—those are my folks."

The core wage and hour law, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, has been on the books since 1938. The New Deal statute, which mandated that a broad swath of the workforce receive 90 minutes' pay for every hour worked beyond 40 in a week, had two goals. One was to reward laborers who put in long hours. But another was to expand employment by making it cheaper for companies to hire additional workers than pay existing ones time and a half. This penalty, Thierman argues, is ineffective today, given the enormous costs of health care and other benefits for each employee. The result, he says, is that businesses prefer to require long hours, and they either pay overtime or not—and hope they don't get caught.

Of course, not everyone is entitled to overtime. Under "white-collar exemptions" to the law, employers don't have to pay extra to various executives and professionals. These exemptions, labor historians say, are rooted in decades-old thinking about a workforce that bears little resemblance to today's. A clear distinction between professional and production classes used to be assumed. Nowadays mortgage brokers, for instance, crank out loan applications in assembly line operations and are paid based on how much they produce. Lenders around the country have battled, largely unsuccessfully, to defeat overtime claims by these employees.

Then there's the notion that white-collar jobs are cushier and pay more. "Bankers used to work bankers' hours," notes Jerry A. Jacobs, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania. But, he notes, the tendency of working-class employees to put in longer hours than professionals flipped by the 1960s. Consider pharmaceutical sales reps. While they make an average of $79,000 a year, their jobs require them to work about 65 hours a week, says Charles Joseph, a New York attorney who, along with others, has filed overtime cases against every major drugmaker. In order to earn a middle-class income, he observes, they essentially "have to work two jobs."

Beth Amendola would agree with that. She is suing Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., where she worked as a sales rep in South Florida from 1998 to 2006. Often called on to attend evening programs and medical meetings, Amendola and her colleagues would say, "Oh, another hour, another 25 cents — that was the standard joke." A Bristol spokesman says the company believes it complies with the FLSA, and won't comment on pending litigation.

While the Bush administration updated regulations governing white-collar exemptions in 2004, attorneys say the changes were incremental and left plenty of room for lawsuits. There are two basic categories of overtime claims. One arises because a company has misclassified employees as exempt from the wage and hour laws, and thus improperly failed to pay overtime. In some of these cases the workers have been classified as independent contractors, meaning the company doesn't pay them benefits, either. The second is a so-called off-the-clock claim, in which employees allege that some of the work they do is not recorded by the company, sometimes as an intentional way to keep them from accruing overtime.

Even defense attorneys acknowledge that vast numbers of companies are violating the law. "Industries long steeped in tradition as to who is exempt and who is not exempt...are not necessarily compliant with the letter of the regulations," says Kirby C. Wilcox, a partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in San Francisco. Indeed Thomas, the former defense attorney, says he switched sides after representing an employer in a wage and hour case. "I was amazed at how prevalent the violations were and the size of the settlement," says Thomas, who co-founded his own firm, Dolin, Thomas & Solomon, in 2000. "I said to myself, Boy, I'm really on the wrong side here.'"

The proliferation of cases—more than doubling in the federal courts from 2001 to 2006—at first drew little notice in the business community, but that's changing. "Everybody's talking about it," says Robin S. Conrad, head of the litigation arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which recently began filing briefs in cases in support of companies.

While violations appear widespread, employees themselves rarely think to make wage and hour claims. Instead, they usually have it suggested to them by lawyers. "Ninety-five percent of our wage and hour cases are a result of someone coming to us complaining about something else," says Thomas. "I can't tell you how many people have come into our office with employment disputes that are meritless and would be thrown out of court and walk out with an FLSA claim."

So deeply rooted are archaic workplace stereotypes that many college-educated, white-collar workers are resistant to the idea that they are entitled to overtime. They associate it with a labor pool that is valued for brawn rather than brains. The notion of keeping track of their hours so they can get paid for long weeks strikes them as déclassé.

Scores of plaintiffs' firms are now aggressively pursuing overtime cases, but it is Thierman whom defense lawyers consistently cite as the most successful and innovative in the business. "He seeds the clouds," and others collect the rain, says defense attorney Wilcox. Thierman has particularly made his mark in pursuit of claims on behalf of relatively well-paid workers.

He uses the I.T. industry as an example:

Computer workers of various stripes, for example, have commonly not been paid for their extra hours. In a sop to the IT industry, lawmakers exempted such employees, who tend to be well-educated, well-paid, and have a culture of working virtually round the clock. The companies argued that they would otherwise not be able to remain competitive with foreign rivals. But under California law, the exemption applies only for workers whose primary function involves "the exercise of discretion and independent judgment." In numerous lawsuits, Thierman and other plaintiffs' attorneys have alleged that legions of systems engineers, help desk staff, and customer service personnel do no such thing. Of programmers, Thierman says, "Yes, they get to pick whatever code they want to write, but they don't tell you what the program does.... All they do is implement someone else's desires."

Already the settlements are rolling in. Siebel Systems has agreed to pay $27.5 million to about 800 software engineers, and IBM is forking over $65 million to technical and customer support workers. Thierman says he also plans to go after other big employers of computer personnel, including banks and health insurers.

$27.5 million spread over 800 engineers, I'll have to keep Mr. Thierman name filed away just in case.

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The Future Need Us To Reboot It - James Bach

sI.T. Testing Industry Leader James Bach had a post on his blog called The Future Will Need Us to Reboot It concerning the Technological Singularity. Or for those of us who don't normally discuss such things the point at which A.I. technology will exists capable of surpassing human intelligence and increasing its own intelligence. In other words the point where computers don't need humans to progress their own intelligence.

James says:

I’ve been reading a bit about the Technological Singularity. It’s an interesting and chilling idea conceived by people who aren’t testers. It goes like this: the progress of technology is increasing exponentially. Eventually the A.I. technology will exist that will be capable of surpassing human intelligence and increasing its own intelligence. At that point, called the Singularity, the future will not need us… Transhumanity will be born… A new era of evolution will begin.

I think a tester was not involved in this particular project plan. For one thing, we aren’t even able to define intelligence, except as the ability to perform rather narrow and banal tasks super-fast, so how do we get from there to something human-like? It seems to me that the efforts to create machines that will fool humans into believing that they are smart are equivalent to carving a Ferrari out of wax. Sure you could fool someone, but it’s still not a Ferrari. Wishing and believing doesn’t make it a Ferrari.

Because we know how a Ferrari works, it’s easy to understand that a wax Ferrari is very different from a real one. Since we don’t know what intelligence really is, even smart people easily will confuse wax intelligence for real intelligence. In testing terms, however, I have to ask “What are the features of artificial intelligence? How would you test them? How would you know they are reliable? And most importantly, how would you know that human intelligence doesn’t possess secret and subtle features that have not yet been identified?” Being beaten in chess by a chess computer is no evidence that such a computer can help you with your taxes, or advise you on your troubles with girls. Impressive feats of “intelligence” simply do not encompass intelligence in all the forms that we routinely experience it.

He is right, probably a tester would not be be involved in an advanced A.I. project because by it's own definition a A.I. project is designed to result in the unexpected. To succeed, the project would result in something greater than the sum of its parts, to be able to expect the unexpected would make the tester clairvoyant which is an even greater trick that achieving true A.I.

Take a look at James's post it gave me something to ponder.

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Forecast for I.T. Work Force Gloomiy - I Knew It Was Coming


eWeek is reporting in Gloomy Forecast for IT Work Force By Roy Mark:

"Our continued leadership is not inevitable and may not be sustainable," Fred Tipson, Microsoft's senior policy counsel, said in an afternoon panel discussion focused on upgrading the current and future work force's digital literacy and math and science skills. "The question is whether our work force or some other country's will be beneficiaries of new technology."

Tipson referred to America's ability to continue to produce high school and college graduates with the skills needed to be successful in today's technology work force as "dire."

Panel moderator James Whaley, president of the Siemens Foundation, added, "We can no longer assume the talent pipeline will be here."

Judy Moog, national program director of the Verizon Foundation, gave the panel participants little reason to question Tipson or Whaley's statements. According to Moog, 70 percent of the nation's eighth graders are below sufficient levels in reading skills and "might well never catch up."

Moog also pointed out that in terms of "quality" of high school graduates, America has fallen to 19th out of 26 nations surveyed. Moreover, she said, nearly half the U.S. adult population—some 93 million people—have very poor or marginal literacy skills.

"Literacy is the price of admission for competitiveness," she said. "People need to access a torrent of information over a vast array of devices. America isn't succeeding fast enough."

But it doesn't look like they have identified the actual cause, that being the best and brightest aren't going into I.T. professions due to more prestigious, higher paying, and stable opportunities elsewhere, primarily due to H-1B visas:

Tipson said Microsoft breaks down the issue into three phases: digital literacy, in which a person learns basic skills, digital fluency, meaning the skills are applied, and digital mastery, in which the first two steps are translated into advanced skills.

"We have a [digital] mastery gap, which is why we keep going outside the country to hire," he said. Microsoft is one of largest users of H-1B visas, a specialized-occupation temporary worker visa.

And their solution to the problem, none, other than panelist Robert Leber of Northrop Grumman suggests:
Only if the business community gets behind efforts to support schools and training programs that emphasize digital literacy, math and science skills.

"The future is not young people, it's keeping the business community involved," Leber said. "Young people need a global view of what's coming, not a xenophobic view about what's happening in other countries."

Moog, too, rooted for business community involvement but characterized the progress made on literacy in the last 10 years as "sad." Whaley said a possible solution was a lifelong "earning account" that would allow to workers to periodically retool their job skills.

My solution, allow I.T. salaries to reach their natural levels, meaning only allow H-1B Visas to supplement domestic candidates when absolutely necessary by putting a premium on H-1B hiring and then use the money collected by the premium to fund I.T. scholarships.

If salaries rise some 20 to 30 percent as some in the industry think they would, given the pressure on salaries being placed on other professionals by insurance and government sources. The best and brightest will once again regard I.T. as a highly desirable field to enter.

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Is Discrimination The Reason Women And Minorities Are Exiting I.T.?

InfoWorld reports in U.S. faces competitive disadvantage from lack of women in IT By Lucas Mearian,

Robert Birgeneau said of the top 50 university computer science department jobs in the U.S., not one is held by a woman of color. "How embarrassing," he said. "It's an astounding waste of talent in an increasingly competitive world."

Discrimination against women and minorities is putting the U.S. at a disadvantage in technology innovation, according to the chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley.

Birgeneau was the keynote speaker at a workshop on women in technology as part of the Emerging Technologies Conference being held at MIT this week.

He said that while the number of women and men enrolling in undergraduate and post graduate technology programs has evened out somewhat, women are far behind their male counterparts when it comes to academic positions.

Birgeneau cited a study released last fall by The National Academies titled "Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering." The study said that at the top research institutions, only 15.4 percent of the full professors in the social and behavioral sciences and 14.8 percent in the life sciences are women, "and these are the only fields in science and engineering where the proportion of women reaches into the double digits."

The study also showed that women will likely face discrimination in every field of science and engineering. "We're at a drastic disadvantage in the United States, which is outsourcing to other countries like India and China, who are working madly to compete with us and who are investing deeply in education," he said.

Karen Vogel, founder of The Women's Congress, a women's business-to-business conference, isn't quite as critical siting:
One factor contributing to the lack of advancement for women in technology jobs and faculty positions is that women often don't support other women when it comes to workplace advancement.
Other possible causes include lack of role models, corporate leaders who don't champion women and lack of access to the "Good Old Boy Network".

The article failed to directly mention the difference in how men and women relate with each other. Women respond best to direct feed back, while men don't like to directly give or receive feedback. Further in the I.T. industry, more than most, your worth is more directly inline with your actual knowledge and experience, rather than any perceived knowledge and experience.

Finally, don't leave out the fact that more and more the I.T. industry is considered a commodity "Dead End" industry and holds much less prestige than before "H-1B" meddling.

InfoWorld promises a more detailed report concerning the issue after further polling has been analyzed next spring.

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Network World's Salary Survey Reveals IT Pay Dissatisfaction

Network World has released it's an Annual Salary Survey by Beth Schultz and she says it reveals that I.T. professionals aren't happy with their salary packages, and are not being paid inline with the value they provide their respective companies. The article states:

A storm seems to be brewing in the IT job market. Pay raises have continued to outpace inflation, and bonuses are downright impressive — 11.6% on average. Yet, as the 2007 Network World Salary Survey finds, dissatisfaction over the salary package is rampant.

On average, the 1,789 respondents to this year’s salary survey, conducted with the help of research firm King, Brown & Partners, saw their base pay rise 5.2%, to $86,700 (see “Your earnings”). On its own, that doesn’t sound all that impressive. But compared with the cost of living, it makes IT look like a good place to be. The average inflation rate for 2006 was only 3.2%, according to Inflationdata.com.

Yet respondents aren’t particularly happy with their pay packages. When asked to rank how satisfied they are with 18 job criteria, overall compensation and base salary fared poorly compared with how important they are.
And people are starting to make changes:
Staff-level dissatisfaction over salaries has been an issue for Jonathan Campbell, director of network services at FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a sprawling healthcare network in Pinehurst, N.C. Campbell reports having recently lost a couple of people from his network operations staff because of, at least in part, pay issues. Finding new staff members wasn’t easy. “The biggest problem is salary,” he says.

The issue is twofold, Campbell says. “Companies that have extremely competent people are paying big bucks to keep them. Other companies looking for new hires can’t meet the salary demands to get these individuals to leave their current positions. So those companies will actually pay less to get a foreign [immigrant] worker with little experience but lots of degrees and certifications to fill the position, even though factors such as customer satisfaction may suffer,” he explains.

But even thought most feel they are underpaid they would like to stay in their current position:

Even while wishing they were better compensated, most respondents report liking where they’re at with their jobs. When asked how satisfied they are with their current positions overall, nearly 42% said they were either very or extremely satisfied, and another 40% indicated that they’re satisfied.
The Hottest IT skills for 2007:
Windows administrators are in high demand, but plentiful. Experts in security, storage and networking are much wanted, too, but harder to find.
The Industry still needs to come to grips with the problems caused by the outsourcing and "H-1B" solution to the perceived shortages over last decade. With political resistance to H-1B increases growing, as well as job dissatisfaction increasing amongst current I.T. professionals and the collapse of the education of new I.T. professionals, it is hard to see anything but major increases in U.S. salaries or the wholesale movement of jobs overseas, maybe both.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sneaky Congress Critters Working on Immigration and H-1B Again

Failing to pass large scale immigration overhaul due to stiff resistance of the American Public, the proponents of immigration overhaul have not given up, bowing to the desires of the American Public. No, now they are working quietly, trying to sneak some of the most unpopular parts of their ill fated "Immigration Reform Bill" through Congress by attaching them to other bills vital to the country.

For example Sen. Durbin, D-Ill, is planning to propose Amnesty be given to children of Illegal Immigrants who entered the country at a young age. To qualify, they have to be in the country for at least five years, have a high school education, and over the next 6 years spend a minimum of 2 years in college of in the military, at which time they have an new designation of Legal Permanent Residents, a step toward citizenship.

Senator Durbin plans to attach the amendment to the defense-funding measure slated to come before the Senate this weekFor more examples of the underhanded tactics of the "Immigration Reformers" take a look at the LOS ANGELES TIMES: Quiet fight for immigration overhaul by NICOLE GAOUETTE.

The article continues:

Feinstein has championed an AgJobs program with increasing intensity as farms have struggled to find enough labor. The program would allow up to 1.5 million agricultural workers to gain legal status through a "Blue Card," provided they did farm work for a certain number of days every year. Those who met the criteria could apply for legal permanent resident status after five years.

The bill's prospects are uncertain. Feinstein lost a crucial AgJobs ally when Sen. Larry E. Craig, R-Idaho, recently announced he would resign because of the scandal surrounding his arrest in a Minneapolis airport restroom.

In July, Feinstein and Craig had won a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that the AgJobs proposal would be considered, possibly as an amendment to the farm bill expected to be debated this fall.

"We know that virtually all of the agricultural work force is undocumented," Feinstein said. "Today there are shortages . . . AgJobs is a pilot program that would provide a reliable workforce to plant and harvest crops in this country."

Sessions is actively campaigning against both Durbin and Feinstein's initiatives, arguing the proposals eventually would give more than 4 million illegal immigrants citizenship.

Sessions said he would support a plan under discussion among Republicans, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to create a version of AgJobs that would limit workers to short-term stays in the U.S. and not provide any kind of longer term legal status.
We need to maintain vigulance, looking for what underhanded measure the sneaky Congress Critters might try next to get immigration and H-1B legislation through Congress no matter how unpopular it is with the American Public. And we call this a Democracy.

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Be More Effective, Take Better Notes

Whether it be gathering requirements for a project or just accurately recording the events of a staff meeting . One of the easiest ways of increasing our effectiveness is to take high quality notes. And there is no shortage of guides available on how you can do just that. But one of the better guides I have found is available on the Lifehack.org website called Advice for Students: Taking Notes that Work.

Follow their advice and you'll find that your taking far more effective notes than you ever have before, better notes means your more effective, and the more effective you are the more valuable you are to your team.

A couple of tips from the article to remember, Only write down what is new to you, (if you know it don't spend your time writing it down) and only write down what you think is relevant (if it not relevant don't spend your time writing it down). And here is one from me, spend the $50 and by a good voice recorder and record it just in case you need to go back later, sort of an emergency backup, you may never need it, but if you do you'll have it.

Advice for Students: Taking Notes that Work [Lifehack.org]

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Friday, September 14, 2007

The Collapse of the Computer Science Degree in the U.S. via H-1B.

Following up my article on the Governors trying to revive the H-1B bill, on the off chance you thought I was alone in my crusade against the H-1B process, I suggest you look at a couple articles that tackle the same issue from different view points. First, Half Sigma has a post called Why a career in computer programming sucks he describes:

The foreignization of computer programming

I’m sorry about using a word that doesn’t exist in the dictionary, but foreignization best explains what’s happening in the computer programming industry.

First of all, there is the familiar outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries, mostly India. Because of this, the computer programming industry within the United States is an industry with a shrinking number of jobs, although as a worldwide phenomenon I’m sure computer programming will grow at a brisk rate. Would outsourcing of computer programming and other IT jobs be such a big trend if the industry were more prestigious? I think not. You don’t see lawyers being outsourced. In fact, by law, only members of the bar are allowed to practice law, so it would be illegal for foreigners to do American legal work.

The other half of foreignization is the near abandonment of the domestic IT market to foreigners. This is a trend that is accelerated by the issuance of special H1-B visas that allow extra computer programmers to come here and take jobs away from American programmers. Computer programming (along with nursing) has been specially targeted by our government for foreignization.

Foreignization creates a vicious circle effect with the low prestige of the profession. Because the profession has low prestige, employers balk at the idea of having to pay high salaries (while it seems perfectly appropriate if a lawyer or investment banker is making a lot of money). Thus the demand for more H1-B visas so that salaries can be decreased. In turn, Americans see an industry full of brown people speaking barely intelligible English, and this further lowers the industry’s prestige. Computer programming and IT in general is now seen as the foreigner’s industry and not a proper profession for upwardly mobile white Americans. [The Indian and Asian people I've known in the IT industry are nice people, and normally I don't pay attention to their different appearance, so this should not be taken as a racist dislike of non-white people. I am only accurately describing the fact that the typical white American thinks negatively of a profession that's predominately non-white. And I stand by my belief that people born in this country have more rights to the money being created here than foreigners. Asian countries feel the same way about foreigners. Asian countries are, typically, a lot less open to foreign worker immigrants than is the U.S.]

Because there is no reason to think that the trend of foreignization will reverse, this will ensure that the future of the industry will be lower salaries.

And Bill Gates himself has noticed the problem within the Computer Science programs within the United States, though he places the blame not on the H-1B process, of which he is a strong supporter but upon the Computer Science programs themselves. In a article from the American called Revenge of the Frosh-Seeking Robots, Bill is quoted when asked who is his greatest competitor:

“Goldman Sachs,” was Gates’s surprising reply.

Gates went on to explain that he was in the “IQ business.” Microsoft needed the best brains available to make top-shelf software. His primary rivals for the smartest kids in America were elite investment banks such as Goldman or Morgan Stanley.

“Microsoft must win the IQ war,” Gates said, “or we won’t have a future.”

The article continues on discussing the current trends in U.S. Universities:
Recent enrollment figures are ominous. The number of smart kids studying computer science peaked a few years ago and has dropped dramatically since. The number of new computer science majors today has fallen by half since 2000, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Merrilea Mayo, director of the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable at the National Academies, says the drop-off was particularly pronounced among women.

Meanwhile, elite schools are reporting that the number of economics majors is exploding. For the 2003–2004 academic year, the number of economics degrees granted by U.S. colleges and universities increased 40 percent from five years previously. Economics is seen by bright undergraduates as the path to a high-paying job on Wall Street or at a major corporation.

To respond to the fall-off in computer science interest, the brass in Redmond, Washington, turned to Microsoft’s research division. Modeled on the great industrial R&D facilities in business history, such as Bell Labs and Xerox PARC, Microsoft Research is a 700-person division within the company. Comprising a series of laboratories around the world, it labors to push the frontiers of computer science. That goal is jeopardized if it can’t attract the brightest young men and women.

The Research staff first puzzled over what was driving the decline in interest in computer science. Many students choose a major based on perceptions of how helpful it will be in finding a well-paying job after graduation.
Clearly the believe that choosing a Computer Science Major won't lead to a well-paying job, is directly related to both the Off Shoring process as well as the H-1B process that the I.T. industry is employing, the direct opposite was true just 7 years ago, prior to the implementation of these processes, and enrollments then were booming.

Business has worshiped at the idol of the MBA far too long, which has created this problem by proposing this H-1B process to begin with.

All in order to boost the company bottom line and therefore the stock price a few percent by reducing wages paid to techs.

Now they have killed the technology education process in our country, and it won't be fixed until they scrap the H-1B process as well as the Off Shoring process and let wages and demand resume their natural levels.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Now Its the Governors Trying to Revive H-1B

Governors from the Tech heavy states, of California, Texas, Washington, New York and Massachusetts have now gone on record, urging Congress to rethink it's earlier decision to kill the H-1B bill for the current session. Siting the speed of which the current H-1B Visa allotment was snatched up as a indication of the need for additional Visa.

When you consider that every H-1B holder works for 10 to 20 thousand dollars less than a comparable U.S citizen, of course the H-1B visas are going to be snatched up. It's like giving away free money to Tech Companies.

And I guess you can see the motivation for Tech Companies to pull out all stops in order to see the H-1B program maintained or even increased.

For more on the latest industry efforts to revive the H-1B program take a look at C/Nets: Governors throw support behind H-1B increase Posted by Anne Broache:

A congressional push this year for an increase in the H-1B visas coveted by Silicon Valley companies seemingly evaporated with the death of a contentious immigration bill. But 13 state governors say the politicians must revive that effort--and soon, please.

Claiming "a critical shortage of highly skilled professionals in math and science to fill current needs," the band of chief executives on Tuesday sent a letter urging U.S. Senate and House of Representatives leaders to forge ahead with upping the number of the temporary H-1B visas and permanent-resident green cards. Click here to view a copy (PDF).

The signatories represent a number of tech-industry-heavy states, including Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Rick Perry of Texas, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Chris Gregoire of Washington and Eliot Spitzer of New York. The governors said they recognized there may not be time for comprehensive action on immigration laws during this session of Congress but said quick movement is needed on the skilled visa issue, as evidenced by the rapid speed by which this year's quota was met.

The H-1B program, created in 1990, allows foreigners with at least a bachelor's degree in their area of specialty to be employed in the United States for up to six years. There's currently an annual cap of 65,000 visas, at least on paper, with up to 20,000 extras available for foreigners who earn advanced degrees from U.S. universities. (Various exemptions bump the total allotment to just above 100,000.)

Although the visas are prized by Silicon Valley companies, the idea of allowing more of them has generated disdain from groups representing American tech workers. Several congressional proposals propose expanding the annual cap, but some politicians have voiced concern that the program is being abused in a way that replaces American workers or depresses their wages in comparable positions.

When will the High Tech Companies learn that they are hurting their future by seeking a short term resolution to their labor costs. Sure they improve this year's bottom line, by hiring lower cost workers, but they also discourage those with the talent to do the job in the future domestically from entering the field.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Bad Day For Microsoft, IBM enters Open Office Project

It's been a bad day from Microsoft, first Cap Gemini announces support for Google Apps and now IBM announces that they are entering the OpenOffice Open Source Project and that they will be providing Lotus Notes code for integration into the project.

Depending on the level of IBM participation, the recent inclusion of OpenOffice into Google Desktop and on the basis of the recent reaffirmation that Sun will also continue to support the development of OpenOffice as well, OpenOffice begins to pose a serious threat to the Office Productivity software market.

And with Linux already threating it's Operating System market one has to wonder just how much steam Microsoft has left. Read more on IBM's entry into the OpenOffice project in Information Weeks: IBM Adds Lotus Notes Code To OpenOffice Project


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Friday, September 7, 2007

H-1B Bill is harder to kill than Dracula

This bill has got more lives than a cat, changing its name to the "STRIVE Act", H-1B had a new hearing Thursday reports Infoworld in Congress holds new hearing on immigration bill. The article reports:

It appears that the STRIVE (Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy) Act of 2007 isn't quite dead after all.

On Thursday, the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees Border Security, and International Law convened and on its first day took written statements from witnesses on the bill.

The comprehensive immigration bill that caused such a furor earlier this year, mainly over the issue of whether it was offering amnesty to illegal immigrants, also addressed the H-1B visa cap.

The cap, now set at 65,000, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have a graduate degree from a U.S. institution, would be raised to 115,000 for 2008 with a stipulation that it would go up an additional 20 percent each year that the quota was met, with a final cap of 180,000 visas issued.

At the hearing, STRIVE Act cosponsor Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona did not specifically bring up the issue of H-1B, but he did say that the STRIVE Act "addresses the failures and problems with past worker programs."

Countering Flake's premise, Julie Kirchner, the government relations director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform said, "These provisions are a serious threat to high-tech workers in the U.S., including legal immigrants who have patiently waited their turn to take part in the American dream."

In total, there were a dozen witnesses submitting written statements, but the others did not address the issue of the H-1B visa cap.

Just having a hearing doesn't mean that the bill stands much of a chance of passage any time soon with opposition by Senators Sanders, Grassley and Durbin.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

No Additional H1-B Visas This Year - Congress

According to Roy Mark, in eWeek: Congress Pushes Back on H1-B Visas it doesn't look good for any increases in H1-B Visa for the rest of 2007 and into 2008. Congress has caught on that the actual use of H1-B Visa is to limit the number of high wage I.T. professionals by placing lower cost overseas worked in those positions. The article states:

When the immigration reform bill went down in flames in May, a provision to raise the cap on H-1B visas also went up in smoke. That the controversial legislation—loaded with such explosive political hot buttons such as border security and amnesty—failed came as no surprise as Congress has unsuccessfully wrangled with these issues for years. What did surprise many in the tech sector, though, was the serious pushback by lawmakers on H-1B visas. An increase in the specialized-occupation temporary worker visas had been a top priority for the technology sector, which claims there are not enough qualified U.S. workers to fill their advance-degree positions.

"It's all part of keeping America competitive," said Roger Cochetti, group director of U.S. public policy at Washington's CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association). Or as Microsoft's Bill Gates told Congress in 2005, "The whole idea of the H-1B thing is don't let too many smart people come into the country. Basically, it doesn't make sense."

Just one day after the opening of the H1-B visa program process, the 2008 allotment of 85,000 H1-B visas is already gone. Last year, it took a month to exhaust the supply of H-1B visas.

With Democrats taking over control of Congress this year, tech harbored hopes of an increase in H-1B visas from the current 64,000 per year. The cap does not apply to petitions made on behalf of current H-1B holders or from applicants who hold advanced degrees from U.S. academic institutions, for whom an additional 20,000 visas are made available.

Yet while the bill was still in play, the U.S. Senate voted to increase the fees on H1-B visas while not raising the cap.

"What many of us have come to understand is that these H-1B visas are not being used to supplement the American work force where we have shortages but, rather, H1-B visas are being used to replace American workers with lower-cost foreign workers," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in his May 25 floor comments.

Under Sanders' bill, H-1B visa fees would have jumped $1,500 per application to $5,000 from the current $3,500. The increased fees would be funneled to a scholarship fund for Americans seeking degrees in math, technology and health-related fields.

"To win favor in China, Microsoft has pledged to spend more than $750 million on cooperative research, technology for schools and other investments," Sanders said. "If Microsoft and other corporations have billions of dollars to invest in technology…these same companies should have enough money to provide scholarships for middle-class kids in the United States of America."

That isn't only bad news for those pushing for an H-1B cap increase. If the issue comes up again, U.S. Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are not likely to support a cap increase without what they call serious reform of the program.

On April 2, the two lawmakers introduced legislation to crack down on employers who misuse H-1B visas and to give priority to U.S. workers. The Durbin-Grassley bill would require employers to make a good-faith effort to hire American workers first. Employers would also have to show that the H-1B worker would not displace an American worker.

The bill would also require employers to advertise job openings on a Department of Labor Web site before submitting an H-1B application. In addition, the bill would mandate the Department of Labor to conduct random audits of any company that uses the H-1B program and would require annual audits of companies with more than 100 employees that have 15 percent or more of those workers on H-1B visas.

"This is about protecting the American worker," Grassley said in a statement accompanying the bill. "We're closing loopholes that employers have exploited by requiring them to be more transparent about their hiring and we're ensuring more oversight of these visa programs to reduce fraud and abuse. A little sunshine will go a long way to help the American worker."

All of which adds up to a bleak future for an increase in H-1B visas out of the 110th Congress, particularly in a year when jobs and the U.S. economy are sure to be top topics on the campaign trail.

I can only applaud the efforts of Senators Sanders, Grassley and Durbin, the H-1B program has been abused by the I.T. Industry. And that abuse has resulted in decimating our I.T. Education system, and causing I.T. professionals to re-evaluate their continued participation in the industry.

It seems obvious to me that if there is a shortage of workers in the U.S. then the number of Immigrants allowed in should be done, not through some special program like H-1B but by increasing the number of immigrants allowed through the standard immigration process.

I support an annual review of the economy and its needs prior to setting a immigration ceiling for the country by Congress, with no preferences given to technical professionals. Let the marketplace set the salaries, not bills from Congress.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Parents Rejoice, AT&T Will Introduce Smart Limits Soon

AT&T Smart Limits will enable parents to keep a tab on the mobile usage of their kids.

In a company statement AT&T said: “We were certainly hearing from parents who were dismayed at overuse of text or phones. We want to find a way for kids to use phones without having to take the phone away.”

The new service will be offered to their customers as a $4.99 per line add-on named AT&T’s Smart Limits.

It will be available to AT&T Customers without a contract so it can be enabled or disabled at will. It will provide several different functionalities including: call blocking, hour limits to text message etc. Web specific settings will be available as well.

Emergency calls to 911 would remain active all the time, as mandated my law.

Unfortunately, the service will have limited functionality on advanced phones like the Apple iPhone as they ship with independent browser and are capable of accessing the web using wi-fi.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

Another Failure, 'Stupid Holes' In Oracle 11g

It's starting to look like an epidemic, PC World is reporting that a security expert has found 'Stupid Holes' in Oracle 11g. Check out more from PC World in their article, 'Stupid' Holes Reported in Oracle 11g. They report:

"Oracle made big progress with 11g, but some of the vulnerabilities I've found so far in 11g are stupid programming errors," said Alexander Kornbrust, managing director of Red Database Security GmbH, during an interview at the Hack In The Box (HITB) Security Conference 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"Oracle must educate their own development team because they should normally avoid these simple security vulnerabilities," Kornbrust said.

I'm starting to wonder if there isn't a more systemic cause to all the recent programming problems the industry has experienced. Perhaps it is financial pressure that causes programming staffs to rush applications out the door, or maybe the new methodologies are not being implemented as envisioned, what ever the reason, we need to take a look at what we are doing in our own application teams and try out best not to allow our applications not to add up on my list of application failures.

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Multi-Day Paypal Subscription Outage Not Going Over well

The I.T. Industry is taking a big hit to our already strained level of prestige this weekend with Paypal's Subscription Outage. The subscription service stopped working on Thursday, August 30 and on September 1, PayPal advised that the issue would be fixed by September 5 or 6, and that all outstanding subscription payments would be collected.

I can sympathize that Paypal's I.T. department were likely either out pocket or going out of pocket for the Labor Day weekend. But if this outage could have been prevented by not doing the software release just prior to the long weekend, or a better job of testing of the release prior to putting it into production, it not going to be good news for the I.T. industry.

There is a lot of talk about the outage going on, check out Center Networks What's Going On With PayPal? Is eBay Communications Clueless? and Tech Crunch's Multi-Day Paypal Outage.

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