US Federal Government Declares War on the Matrixed Contractor Employee

DFARS.

If you don’t know what that is, look it up. I’m not going to go into it in this article. I only want to discuss the ramifications of DFARS and how it’s being interpreted/implemented.

Every federal contractor company I’ve worked for has a “matrixed” business model. This means in order to save money, they will employ you on a single federal contract – but “leverage your expertise” on other federal contracts. The end result of this is that you’ll end up working on multiple projects across multiple agencies. Because federal agencies refuse to get along and agree on standards, this means you get to go through multiple clearances and obtain multiple credentials (i.e. CAC or PIV cards and usernames/passwords).

This is a little disingenius on the part of the contractor company. It’s been my experience that they will tie you to a single contract and then matrix you to others. But if the funding lapses on the primary contract, they’ll show you the door. Valuable employees are kept but others that are lower level (but still matrixed!) will be laid off.

That’s another issue that is between you and your company.

Anyway… DFARS. The way companies and agencies are interpreting DFARS is the subject of this article. Basically, if you’re a matrixed employee, the end result is that you will end up with one laptop and one mobile device per project.

That’s right.

If you’re matrixed across three different projects, you will end up with three laptops and three different mobile devices. None of these devices will be allowed to communicate with the other agency. Your company will likely issue a company-specific laptop and mobile device as well. In my case, this could result in four separate devices to do your work.

That sounds reasonable, but it’s woefully ignorant of how a matrixed employee does business. Every agency expects the employee to be devoted to their contract, even if they are on record as having only a slice of time. The agency/customer expects that employee to be available at any time… not just during certain hours of the day.

The end result is that the matrixed employee is expected to manage multiple meeting requests across multiple devices without a single integrated view of meeting and work conflicts. This means the employee will miss meetings, emails and lort knows what else.

I predict this will be rolled back within a few years.

It’s untenable.

Me? I’m going to set “out of office” replies that notify senders that I only check my email and calendar during certain parts of the day. They’ll receive that autoreply every time they email me. Sure, I can set it to reply once a day.

I wouldn’t want to like… be annoying, or something.

Penny Arcade – What You Wish For

Just in case you think I’m alone in this Windows 8 hatred… and how Windows 8.1 isn’t going to save it…

Penny Arcade – What You Wish For

Introducing Windows Red: A serious plan to fix Windows 8 | Microsoft windows – InfoWorld

Introducing Windows Red: A serious plan to fix Windows 8 | Microsoft windows – InfoWorld

This is an interesting article, but it still addresses the overall cosmetic flaws with Windows. Windows has had much more fundamental flaws since the days of Windows 3.11 that still go unfixed. I’ll list a few of them here. These flaws prevent me from ever using Windows again as my main personal operating system and if you knew better, you’d feel the same way.

  1. File system events do not work properly.
  2. The concept of application installations (and all the garbage that comes with it – DLL’s and the like) is completely broken.
  3. The concept of drivers, both signed and unsigned, is broken.
  4. Windows does a really shitty job at supporting standards (calendaring, email, instant messaging… I’m looking at you).
  5. NTFS needs to advance beyond its current incarnation. (To be fair, HFS+ does too).
  6. Windows is far, far too fat. It used to be bloated before. Now it’s just ridiculous.

Now let’s look at some of the more recent destruction with Windows that really takes this to a whole new level. Here I’ll rope in some other items that really irritate me.

  1. Office 2013 is really, really broken. The file formats issue was a real problem in Office 2010. Now it’s just a disaster. The amount of people calling me because documents do not open in different versions of Office is absolutely ridiculous.
  2. The Office server ecosystem is in a state that requires your entire enterprise to move to the same versions/releases of Office and servers all at once to support full functionality. I have yet to meet a single enterprise (Microsoft’s own included!) that can support this type of migration and arrangement. This isn’t realistic and I don’t understand why Microsoft continues to shrug it off.
  3. The Microsoft account ecosystem is a disaster. Have you tried telling Office 2013 that you have an Office 365 account AND a Microsoft account? Good luck with that.
  4. On the server side, it’s way… WAY too hard and time consuming to actually implement functionality. The amount of knobs and switches you have to tweak to make something work on EVERY server is insane.

I continue to be baffled as to why anyone puts up with this… or spend money on it.

Sequels

I’m okie with the idea of sequels if the story arc is longer than a single story (a la Harry Potter) from the very beginning. But why does the movie industry insist on cramming more sequels down our throats when they could move on to other stories?

This is a trend that should end.

One can only wish, right?

Attempted Virus Attack on Safari

Tonight I was browsing through my normal websites with Safari on my Mac when suddenly, this window took over my entire browsing experience (click to go full screen on it).

I either got this from macdailynews.com, macnn.com or msnbc.com. I’m not sure which. I did a force-quit on Safari and moved on with my life, but still… beware.

Http 178 162 157 198 6f0299fed32d7c988d9c14969bba16e7e76ab50fe97dea7d

Yammer’s Bad Form

Have you heard of Yammer? If not, you will.

You will likely hear about Yammer after your corporation or business signs a deal with them. Your users will start to flock toward the service and sign up. Lo and behold you will discover that they will be offered a piece of software to install. During the software install they will have the option to invite other users in your organization.

It appears this feature enjoys crawling through your local address book or global address list to invite folks. If you’re in a large organization with thousands of employees, congratulations! You now have a spam attack.

Yammer needs to fix this. Other social startups need to learn from this. Because of this, I’m actively staying away from Yammer, even though my large business is asking us to use it. Screw that. I have work to do.

Nintendo chief slams iPhone, Android for devaluing games | Electronista

Really, Nintendo? Maybe the games were overpriced to begin with.

When we were looking to get our son a Nintendo DS I pushed hard to get him an iPod Touch. My reasoning:

  • There were no cartridges to lose
  • The games weren’t overpriced
  • The games were more “throwaway” – he’s a six year old boy. His interest level in a game will come and go as quickly as the day

He pushed back. He really wanted the Nintendo DS. After 7 months he barely ever touches the thing and has lost multiple cartridges. In his defense, he found them pretty quickly, but still, managing your game collection is just stupid.

Sounds to me like Nintendo is upset about the loss of business. Why are they losing business? It’s the same reason the entertainment industry and press are losing business. They refused to innovate and evolve the business model.

Nintendo chief slams iPhone, Android for devaluing games | Electronista: “”

(Via Electronista)

5 Red Tape Traps: Getting a credit score – The Red Tape Chronicles – msnbc.com

There’s nothing fair about Fair Isaac anyway.

5 Red Tape Traps: Getting a credit score – The Red Tape Chronicles – msnbc.com: “”

(Via MSNBC)

AOL Teeters on Doom

I ran across this article this morning. It shouldn’t surprise anyone… well, with the exception of the people that are getting scammed.

My favorite part of the article is the comments. Someone claims in the article that AOL invented email and uses that to defend paying them a monthly fee. Hilarious.

Drobo Rebuild Time and Your Sanity

I am one of the aspiring new media yahoos that bought into the fever gripping folks everywhere – the Drobo (a play on words for “data robotics.”)  Leo Laporte, Scott Bourne and all of those folks loudly proclaimed about what a fantastic device the Drobo is.

I’m here to tell you it sucks.

Now, first a disclaimer – I’m moaning about the generation 1 Drobo.  I know that a 2nd generation Drobo and a DroboPro have both been released and I’m sure they are much better devices – but there are still some serious problems here that you, the prospective buyer, need to be aware of.  If that’s you, maybe you can skip down to the bullet list for consideration below.

I purchased a Drobo for use in our studio that is expecting to have terabytes of data and loaded it up with 4 1TB Seagate 7200.11 drives.  The Drobo saw them, fired itself up and ran beautifully… or so I thought.

I noticed that the Drobo’s throughput was pretty slow.  Oddly slow.  No, ridiculously slow.  It was so abysmally slow that it was clear from minute one that this thing was only going to be useful for long term storage of archived data or as a Time Machine disk.  Okie, so it’s so slow that even as a Time Machine disk it’s problematic, but I suffered through it.  I was “feelin’ droovy” like everyone in twit.tv said I would.

Then I lost a hard drive.

At first, the Drobo didn’t indicate there was a drive failure.  It suddenly acted like it was out of drive space – at least that’s what it tried to indicate by flashing all four of the drive bays red and green.  Uhm, okie.  Either I lost all four drives or you’re trying to tell me something.

After a reboot of the Drobo, it told me that one of the drives was just bad.  It flagged it with a red light and the software, Drobo Dashboard, informed me as such.  (NOTE: If you use Snow Leopard, you can forget about using Drobo Dashboard in the 64-bit kernel as they still haven’t updated it yet.  Snow Leopard has only been available to developers for almost a year now, guys).  If you want to do anything in regards to checking error messages or updating firmware, you have to use the Drobo Dashboard kids.  That means you won’t be using the 64-bit Snow Leopard kernel.  Oh well, Drobo’s not the only folks guilty of this oversight.

Anyway, after going back to the 32-bit kernel and checking to see what’s going on, the Drobo was upset about a drive failure.  I ordered a replacement drive from Seagate and brought it into the office and replaced the dead one.  Drobo then warned me that it couldn’t protect me from hard drive failures because it was rebuilding the array.

…and it was going to take 1,447 hours to rebuild.

What?  Yes, that’s right.  Better yet, the time to rebuild changed repeatedly.  Sometimes it went to 887 hours, then 2,088 hours, then 48 hours, then back to 1,447 hours.  Drobo couldn’t make up his mind.  The drives were spinning relentlessly.  It was beating on the drives so long and so hard that I became concerned after about a week that another drive might fail in the process.  Fortunately, I could access the data on the drives and copy it off just in case, so I did so.

It’s been two weeks and the array is still building.  It’s also still copying my data off the drive.  That copy has been going on for about three days now.  I’m sure the data copy isn’t helping the throughput at all, but having my array in a compromised state for two weeks without an accurate time estimate to completion is completely unacceptable.

I started to research what was going on here and noticed that other people around the net were experiencing incredibly bad performance issues as well, especially as it pertains to array rebuild times.  The support kb at Drobo says “it can take some time” (not a direct quote), but two weeks is outrageous.  Oh yeah, and it’s still not done by the way.

My copy still has about 11 hours left, so hopefully the data will be copied off the Drobo before it dies completely.

I started thinking about the ramifications of this problem and realized that the Drobo wasn’t entirely a good idea.  I thought I’d bullet those out for you here.

  • Drobo uses a proprietary technology that is NOT based on RAID.  The proprietary technology has marketing materials on it, but that’s about all you’re going to get.  It’s the company’s secret sauce.  It’s something akin to ZFS, but all in all, you’re just going to have to trust your data to them.
  • A key selling point to the Drobo is that this secret sauce allows you to use drives that are varying in capacity and it will squeeze every byte out of it that it can.  That’s nice, but the performance of the unit is so poor that I no longer give a shit.
  • Drobo is very, very proud of their proprietary technology.  So much so that they’re willing to charge you a premium for the privilege of using it, even if it is slow.
  • Drobo performs adequately for almost nothing (other than long-term get-it-out-of-my-site storage) until it has an issue.
  • If it has an issue, you will not know about it under the 64-bit Snow Leopard kernel, if you’re not within eyeshot of the unit.  The Drobo Dashboard can send you alerts.  But if you’re using the 64-bit kernel, it’s not going to send you jack.  It’ll blink at you from across the table… that’s about it.  Hopefully this changes VERY soon.
  • The company charges a mandatory fee for firmware updates and support.  If you don’t pay them a yearly fee, you will not get any support beyond the knowledge base.  You also will not get software and firmware upgrades.  I realize that charging for support is not an entirely new thing and many companies do it, but paying a fee for firmware updates is insane.  (Garmin, I’m looking at you and those maps you want me to buy for the Nuvi, too).
  • The last bullet sucks so bad that you should stop considering a Drobo purchase.
  • Drobo is proprietary, expensive and forces a regular maintenance fee upon you.  You are handing your data over to an unknown, unproven algorithm.  Don’t do that.  I shouldn’t have.  I need to remember to be skeptical of things like this, stop buying into the hype and stick with a solution that has been proven (also known as RAID).

I ordered a Promise Smartstor DS4600 to replace the Drobo.  It’ll do good ol’ RAID5.  Once the copy finishes, I’ll be pulling the drives out of the Drobo and putting them into the DS4600.  I’ll put the Drobo someplace else… maybe hang it off the server for large archival storage one day when I feed it some more drives.  Until then, forget it.

ONE OTHER NOTE: No, I did not call Drobo Support.  Perhaps I should have, I don’t know.  I’m not sure what I was expecting them to do aside from saying, “Yeah, that will take a while.  Sorry buddy!”  So I didn’t.  Mea Culpa if you want to hold me to that, but I’m sure someone out there understands why I didn’t.

Update: Just in case any of you think I’m off my rocker (which I am, but that’s besides the point) – here’s a screen capture of my Drobo Dashboard.  Keep in mind we’re starting on WEEK THREE of the rebuild.  Check out the estimated time to completion after two full weeks…

Estimated time to completion dialog from the Drobo Dashboard.

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