www.youracclaim.com – now that’s dodgey

I, like many of the readers of this blog, have been getting messages constantly from “www.youracclaim.com” to get “badges” from the Microsoft exams they have sat over the past years.

I have ignored these up until recently, but when I went to update my linkedin profile, to include some recent university results, and thought “there must be an easy way to add my Microsoft certs, ill try this youracclaim.com thingy…. its from pearsonvue – how dodgey could it be?”

My question was soon answered with this (below) when trying to link my newly created “youracclaim.com” account and linkedin.

 

Post updates, make comments and like posts as me… are you fucking serious?!!?! Does anyone fall for that? (rhetorical question – someone must….)

Parallels phone spam

Recently, my staff an I have been subjected to a bunch of phone call spam from http://www.parallels.com

I’m getting calls from a UK number, + 442033276423, asking us to partner…. the first time, it was “no thanks”, subsequent calls have been met with less friendly suggestions, and then a block.

Still, no company with decent software needs to engage in this type of activity – avoid.

*update 4/10/2016*

They still call persistently, two times a day, leaving “silence” voice mails after their number has been blocked. There doesn’t seem to be a way to block the number and prevent them from leaving voicemail…. any app developers out there want to write an app to do that? (if you can do that). Its a windows 10 phone, so you’d have to be willing to write an app for a platform that commands a whopping 0.7% of the handset market and, based on the complete lack of support from Microsoft and the rumour mill, unlikely to exist for much longer!

Elance – some odd behaviour

A while ago I started using freelancer.com for some odd jobs here and there around coding or websites…. it worked out ok once for a basic website, but seemed to be very poor if I tried to use it for anything a bit more substantial. The main sticking point for me was that freelancer.com took their cut immediately when the project was awarded – so if the bidder turned out to be completely incapable of delivering (which is not uncommon) – they still charged a reasonable amount.

 

Due to this, I moved to elance – which did not engage in the practice of taking their fees for jobs immediately.

I still had some issues due to the inherent nature of this type of market. For those of you that haven’t used one of these types of sites before – if you post a job, for anything from a basic website to an SQL database and front-end, you will get bucket loads of responses – many of which are copy and paste jobs from people that don’t read the job spec – and are in broken English.

After a while, it becomes easier to pick these and filter them out, however you are still stuck with those that are smart enough to make it look like they can read the spec doc and do the work, but cant actually do the work.

Through Elance I have posted a couple of projects – such as website and an internal timesheet tool.

With these projects, basically I would always have a couple of false starts with someone that was not able to complete the work satisfactorily, until I found someone that could.

Overall, it was still worth it – as even with the false starts and paying out people that couldn’t do the work – our website update cost a couple of hundred, as opposed to the quotes for $6-12k I was getting locally for 7 static pages.

 

My current project is a timesheeting tool for my business – I found the existing ones out there didn’t meet my needs and/or were a confused jumble of modules that seem to be written by people that actually haven’t run a business before.

 

On my 3rd attempt – I found a guy that just seemed to “get it” – which is always nice – and all was going well until….

 

Joyette, Sep 2, 9:08 AM:

Hello hayes,

We have some concerns regarding your job with your freelancer, ‘xxxxx’

There are no messages in the work room, Workview is not being used, and there are no details regarding the work being done in the job proposal. Please detail how you know your freelancer, the nature of the work being done including examples, and how you are communicating. Please provide a detailed response so we may continue to review your Elance account.

 

This was quite bizarre – so my response was…

 

Hi Joyette,

Im a bit flabbergasted by this email.

1) There are no messages in the work room because the messages though elance are hard to use, we have been emailing each other constantly over the project lifetime – just not using the, rather poor, elance messaging system.

2) Workview – see above. Workview does not do useful things such as keep track of outstanding tasks on the job – so why use it ?

3) “There are no details on the work being done in job proposal” – the work being done is the work that has been requested. Since this guy actually speaks English we were able to communicate to a level where I was conformable that he knew what he was doing.

4) I know the freelancer via elance…. Hence why I am paying him via elance – What an odd question!

5) The nature of the work being done is what’s requested to be done – would I really be paying the bills if it wasn’t ?

6) We are communicating via email and Skype.

WTF? Review my elance account? Where were you guys when the sh*tty people doing this job last time were lying through their teeth? Now that I have found someone that actually has a clue – now you want to review?

I’m not quite sure where/why this is coming up now – he is doing the work – I am paying him (via elance) – it’s pretty simple. Sure, the date’s aren’t being met – however, I have added quite a bit of work to the spec – hence why another milestone has been added in elance.

This was followed by

Joyette, Sep 2, 3:58 PM:

Hello hayes,

Thank you for your immediate response.

I am currently reviewing your account but need some help from you to continue. Please send us a scanned copy of any Government issued photo ID ( i.e Passport/ Drivers License) in order to verify your identity.

Regards, Elance Risk ManagementTeam

 

The contractor I was using received one of these too – then with no reason or warning, they suspended his account, leaving him unable to withdraw the funds I had deposited for him.

There is no way in hell any logical person would provide a scanned copy of a passport of drivers license to pretty much any organisation let alone one like Elance. In addition, they are, funnily enough, more than happy to take funds from your credit card without this information, but when it comes to refunds, or asking relatively basic questions that don’t directly make them money – they all of a sudden need this!

After many more emails, I closed my elance account, the contractor eventually got his money…. and we continue to work together outside of elance.

It remains a bit of mystery as to what was really behind this from the elance side – as, if they have any real reasons – they are not sharing them or presenting any evidence of any type of behaviour that would warrant involvement of a “risk management” team…

In short – while elance.com initially appeared to be one of the better freelancing sites, they obviously have something going on behind the scenes and some pretty dodgey practices, perhaps there is something going on due to their merger with upwork…. or perhaps they have always been run by a bunch of idiots and I just haven’t noticed before.

Either way – my suggestion would be to avoid elance & upwork…. I would be happy to hear if anyone out there has had a positive experience with one of these style of organisations.

 

Drip pricing – JetStar

Last year, the ACCC announced it was going to “crack down” on drip-pricing

http://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-takes-action-against-jetstar-and-virgin-for-drip-pricing-practices

Of course, with the ACCC having no real teeth, the practice still occurs with many service providers.

Jetstar is a prime example of that.

Today I booked some flights at an advertised price of $119. For 3 people, return, that adds up to $714.

Yet the final price was $916.55 – almost 28% more than the headline price.

I, like many people, have come to expect the ludicrous charges….

$20 each for baggage (and it has to be the same for all passengers, I cant select “no baggage” for my little girl… 2 year olds don’t tend to have suitcases)

$17.50 per-person credit card charge….. how on earth a charge per-person is appropriate when a transaction fee is a per-transaction fee is as mind-boggling as Tony Abbott knighting a foreign duke.

These are incredibly stupid and inflexible, Jetstar (and others) know this and use these to their advantage – but everyone knows this – and its expected.

The bit that really shits me is the website…. they are trying to sell you such an incredible amount of absolute shit and in addition, some add-on “services” are automatically selected, so you just cant scroll to the bottom and hit “continue”.

Today I inadvertently signed up for “travel insurance”…. or as I believe its known in the industry – “incredibly high profit margin useless service that is worth nothing” – and while $38 isn’t going to break the bank – its the dishonest and deceptive way the Jetstar website sells this service that gets me steamed.

While I know its a pipe-dream, it would nice to have an ACCC that could appropriately punish this practice.

MS Exams….. how much worse can they get ?

I sat 70-412 this morning, as part of my “exam updating” process that I go through every 3 years or so. I’ve now passed 30-ish (I think it might be 33) MS exams since 1997, so I think I’m reasonably qualified to talk on the topic.

While I agree with many people out there that think MS exams are of little real value, due to the poor nature of the questions, the unrealistic scenarios and obscurity of some of the questions, they do help us keep our partner status (which is a whole ‘nother argument) and every now and again, there is a question in there that makes me go home and read up on a topic I don’t know well enough.  The dumps commonly available around the web and the “certification factories” running in places around the world de-value any real test of knowledge the test may have represented from an employer point of view.

So the price is ludicrously high and the value minimal, but the fact that we need them for partner status makes it a moot point – they have to be done if we want to be a MS partner.

Anyway…. onto todays specific exam:

  • Fair enough you can’t take phones etc in… but today, I made the mistake of being sick….. and I wanted to take in a cup of tea… nup… can’t take in a cup of tea… because… well, I might cheat by… umm….. reading left over tea-leaves ? (that weren’t there because there were only tea bags available at the testing centre). Just as well prometric cracked down on that security loop-hole! Well done!
  • Test machine only hung once during todays exam…. was typically slow, but only the one hang – this is very good for MS exams.
  • Question refered to Server1 and Server2 in the question, but all the answers were about Cluster1 and Cluster2…. not a disaster, but would it really hurt to get someone to proof read exams before they go out ?
  • Question about Hyper-V test failover…. all of the answers were about failing over the entire cluster…. and well, all wrong
  • Question about setting up a failover cluster, where the user is an administrator on both nodes, but not a domain admin…… I don’t remember the exact wording, but the first two answers were absolute gibberish (and one of them should have been the correct answer if they had said what I *think* they were trying to say). Clearly written by someone who does not speak english well….. and when the outcome of an exam can depend on wording – I think that’s pretty bad. I completely agree that my spelling and grammar are average at times too – but this is a blog read by a few thousand people – not an exam taken by (I assume) 10’s, if not 100’s of thousands of people, some of whom may need to pass for career progression etc.
  • There were the standard couple of questions in there that had “correct” answers, but talking about methods which you would never, in real life, use. Would it really be that hard to get someone who has actually used the products to write… or at least proof-read the exams ? (the SCCM 2007 exam was a pearler for this too)

So… whats the point of writing all this ?

How about some basic QA on exams before they go out ?

How about getting one of the 1/2 decent MCS techs to look over it before they go out ?

How about getting someone who speaks english as their native tongue to look over it before they go out ? (for english exams) or even someone that write good n stuff ?

But alas – none of that will happen… so really its just an opportunity to blow off some steam. Microsoft and their partners don’t seem to “do” criticism, constructive or otherwise.

I’ll go back to knocking off exams and ignoring the MCM program due to its excessive cost.

Australian Cat Ladies

Classic.

http://australianchristianlobby.org/
http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/cat-ladies-snatch-australian-christian-lobbys-name/story-e6frfkp9-1226631165790

Just in case the above link reverts – the site currently has a wordpress blog from the Australian Cat Ladies… and has nothing to do with scary Christians.

The Australian Christian Lobby (or ACL), who forgot to renew the domain name (or some such) are a undeniably evil pack of bigoted fuckwits who deserve all the hatred and vitriol they get….. and then some.

SCEP 2012 vs others – making my blood boil

We’ve had a number of customers recently move to SCEP 2012 from other solutions, particularly mcafee, but also some symantec, sophos etc.

These have generally been customers on an EA, with core cal already purchased and additionally , SCCM 2007 or 2012 already in place for deployment…. so for these enviornments, there is a cost saving with SCEP (as its part of the core cal) and since the SCCM infrastructure is already in place, the management overhead (when other products were in use) is reduced.

The biggest thing i see – and continue to hear from customers is the about the massive performance difference on the workstations after moving from something like Mcafee to SCEP…. Mcafee is a machine crippler, plain and simple. For those of you that have it…. build up two SOE machines, one with Mcafee, one with with SCEP and have a look at the performance difference for yourselves.

Anyhoo – a few days ago, a customer was telling me about independant reports which claim SCEP is quite bad (for various reasons) and how superior the administration of EPO is, the feature set etc etc…. so, i went looking for these independant reports.

This is the first one i found – http://www.mcafee.com/us/resources/demos/endpoint-protection-comparison/McAfee-EP-Microsoft-FEP.swf – and, well, as per the title of this post, my blood boiled.

This is flat out, religious style, mis-information, bullshit and quater truths trying to look legimate… some of the claims in the presentation are just ludicrous.

Now this slidehsow is based on FEP 2010 – but quite frankly, the majority of points have not changed between FEP 2010 and SCEP 2012 (but a couple have)

such as

Administration costs (slide 6) – These figures are just insane… where are these coming from ? 3 times as many new servers to deploy SCEP ? how? 1 server is required to deploy SCEP – and, if the organisation is already using SCCM (which isnt exactly uncommon!) – 0… none, nada, zilch new servers required to deploy. Even if geographically diverse orgs, if SCCM was only being used for SCEP – then 1 server is still only required, as BDP’S (SCCM 2007) or DP’s on a workstation (SCCM 2012) can be used for remote distribution (and this would depend on network speeds/topology etc)

The higher personell costs… well, intentionally vague because of what a ludicrous statement it is….. you need 1 (one!) automatic deployment rule to deploy updates… and in the client policy you set “deploy SCEP” to true…. now clearly this guy doesnt actually use the products he’s talking about, but think of the dumbest tech you possible can – even they could rollout and keep SCEP up to date, with a total admin effort of a few hours (a few mins for an SCCM experienced tech).

The comment about SCCM and forefront being “more complex to administer” – you’ve got to be fucking joking. EPO is definitely one of the better anti-virus administration tools out there – but it, as all software, has its own quirks and complexities too…. trying to clain that SCCM is more complex than EPO…. well ofcourse it is if you have used EPO for 5 years and never used SCCM! The same is true the other way around! Thats just a dodgey arguement.

License fee’s – well that all depends on if you are already licensed via an EA (which is very common in our market) – in which case its bundled in with your other CAL’s….. thats a very large and  important point to miss!

Licenisng for other OS’es – This is a fair point for FEP 2010, but as of SCEP 2012 SP1 (due Jan 2013-ish), SCEP supports MAC and Liunx

Admin and reporting (Slide 8)

EPO group membership is security orientated where-as SCCM collection membership is patch orientated…. just huh ? If i understood what he is getting at here, i could shoot it down…. but it just doesnt make any sense.

distributing updates faster – so… your saying you dont know how to configure SCCM ?

Reporting – No question, Mcafeee reporting is richer than SCEP reporting…. SCEP reporting will continue to get better over time (2012 is better than 2010, obviously)

Consoles (Slide 9)

Requires expertise in 6 different consoles! Thats just a flat out lie. SCEP requires you to know how to use the SCCM console, set policy, deploy software updates, view reports….. i.e. the normal things an SCCM admin already does. If you dont already use SCCM, then sure, you’ll have to learn SCCM, but again, the same is true for EPO!

Tampering and reboots (Slide 10)

“Barrage of windows updates, requiring many reboots” – so are we talking about general windows patching or antivirus here – you cant change topic when convienient. Sure windows updates require reboots, but this is completely seperate to antivirus – if you use mcafee, you still need to patch your machines, and those patches still will need reboots. What a disgusting twisting of the facts.

Tamper proof – “users can tamper with and disable forefront” ? really? So you haven’t configured SCEP to lock down the settings (the same as you need to in EPO) and then your complaining that users can change the settings you havent locked down?

 

There is no question Mcafee (and others) have been around longer, are more mature in some ways (reporting in particular) and have more “features”. I argue, and always will, that the additonal features (such as firewalls, execution prevetion etc) are a pain in the arse for most of our clients…. but sure there are some clients that have valid reasons for using them. The biggest doiwnside to these additional features is the crippling performance impact of mcafee (and others) – and important point which seems to have been left out completely. A number of these features are also already available within the OS and can be configured via group policy… sure its a different tool…. but show me one enterprise IT admin that doesnt know how to use group policy.

If you are a Microsoft-based IT enviornment already – chances are the licenses for SCEP are included in the licensing you already have – if you also already use SCCM for deployment, then you already have the infrastructure and skills to deploy SCEP very quickly and keep it easily updated. So its a very compelling case to look seriously at SCEP at save a big wad of cash….. if your not already licensed (which is unlikley if your an MS based enviornment) and dont have SCCM,  by all means, evaluate the different antivirus solutions for your company to see which ones meet your needs, but do not ever, use an “independent” report such as this one as a justification or to form part of your reasoning…. it is one of the most disgracefully, intentionally inaccurate pieces of “independent” advice I have ever seen.

Current day SPAM

SPAM is an unfortunate fact of life… whether or not it be random religious whack jobs, penis enlargements or nigerian bank managers who have found an error which will end up in me getting $50 million, all they need is a little good faith money – its all as annoying as each other. Fortunately when it comes to email SPAM – there are many cheap and effective ways to dealing with this so only the smallest amount gets through.

Stupid stuff – but managable – and really, apart from the stupid amounts of bandwidth it consumes – not much of an issue anymore. (although i still believe in all for the death penalty for spammers)

However, as per usual, local sales people also seem to think that were not already bombarded by enough mindless bullshit and want to get in on the act…. so after i purchased a new car… the car dealership decided to send me advertisements for new cars …. a quick call to dealership explaining that if they ever want my business again, you wont send me any shit ever… problem kinda solved (one still gets through ever 6 months or so)

The we have the real-estate agent who tried to sell our house – apparently i need a market update along with a letter about what he did over xmas….. when did i ask for this shit ?

Then we have the best of the lot – the hospital research foundation home lottery – which i purchased a ticket in years ago, thinking “hey, i could win something, and if i dont, im supporting medical research – im good with that”…. apparently what i really said was “take my details and constantly send me letters and text messages telling me that another lottery is on or that one is about to close, or that the early bird is about to expire etc…. even if you unsubscribe multiple times, we wont listen and will just continue to bombard you with our crap”

my point:

If your in SA, do not ever buy a ticket or provide your details to the hospital research foundation home lottery

Marketing and salespeople who think adding someone to your mailing list without permission is acceptable…. go find a short length of rope, and appropriate beam that will hold your weight and do the world a favour