The school of human science

One of the thins that I am looking at now is stuff regarding personal development and the reason for this is that however good you are or however good you THINK you are; the bottom line is you can do better.  This is an area that I find interesting as I have found that there are quite literally thousands of sites out there wanting to give you advise on how to be "better" so which one’s do you believe?  Well for my part what I have done is looked at common themes throughout each of these sites and taken these on their own merits and looked at whether these can benefit me.

My current endeavour is to become an "early riser".  I have two reasons for this; the first is that I personally believe that by rising at 5:30am I will have a huge amount of time that then becomes available to me to use for business things, personal stuff and eventually to get back out cycling again.  Now I understand that 5.30am sounds early and I mean REALLY early but when you think about it really isn’t that early as most people will get up at around 7-7.30 so maybe it’s not THAT early after all.  Secondly is one of belief that it can be done.  The reason for this is that my other half’s nephew has recently joined that army and one of things that they do is they train all day from 5.30am through til when they get to bed at around 12am now my reaction was to think he would look like death by the end of 4 weeks and to be honest half way into it he did.  But his parents went to see him at the weekend and he looks good, better that ever so this proves that it can be done and I can see what the benefit it would be for myself.  So here we are Day 1 and feeling pretty bright and breezy, a little tired but definitely feeling good about it.  So how do we do this?  Well below is an extract from a blog for Scott Young who considering his age is a very enlightened young man:

How to Build Energy Into Your Mornings

Here are a few things I’ve found helpful to reduce the transition period from being asleep to becoming fully alert. Not only does speeding up this wake-up process save time, it makes waking up less of a struggle. A few tips:

  1. Light. Your body’s natural clock is tuned to the amount of light. Turn on all the lights in your room right after waking up. Getting bright lights can help trick your body into thinking it is time to get out of bed.
  2. Exercise. Put something physical right at the start of your morning. In the summer, I did a quick morning run and found it helpful in shaking off any sleepiness. Considering the outside temperature hovers around -30 C, I’ve stuck to doing a few pushups in my room. The exercise gets your heart pumping and snaps you out of a groggy state.
  3. The 10-Minute Rule. If you want to stick with a consistent wake-up time, practice the ten-minute rule. This means you commit to staying awake for at least the next ten minutes. Once you get over that initial period, the temptation to go back to bed is usually gone.
  4. Active Work. Start your day with work that actively uses your mind. Creative activities like writing, drawing, programming or designing work better than passive activities like reading. By focusing your mind early you can stay focused and brush off any unwanted drowsiness.
  5. Don’t Skip Breakfast. Wake up early enough to get something to eat. Skipping meals throw your metabolism out of balance, causing you to gain fat and lose energy. Skipping breakfast also means your blood sugar will be low in the morning and energy levels down.
  6. Commit to a Sleep Schedule. The obvious solution to combat sleepiness is to get more rest at night. Carrying a sleep debt throughout the week with the hopes of paying it off on the weekend is a bad strategy. Instead, compress your work into the morning hours so you can get the 6-8 hours you need each night.
  7. Turn Up the Volume. I’ve found listening to music or audio books helpful in keeping myself awake during the morning. Best of all, if you put on an audio book from your favourite speaker, you can get some encouragement to start your day.

This is the plan that I am currently following and it is not a one-off opinion this is a similar theme that is echoed around all of the blogs that I have looked at.  I have tried just getting up early as I did throughout last year as I have always like to get up early and do some cycling but throughout that time I always struggled with getting up sometimes sleeping through the alarm.  So this is my plan and I will keep you all posted on how it goes.

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The enemy within…..

Following on from the recent security theme I would like to carry this on a little further and discuss an aspect of security in business that may not always be so obvious to everyone.  Most individuals will be aware of the threat that the Internet poses to business as well as the threat that is posed by wireless networks.  However what are great deal of businesses do not understand is that the greatest threat is not always what lies without but in fact it is what lies within.  It is a known fact that a number of employee’s that leave businesses go on to work for other companies but a number of these individuals go on to start their own business.  Either way these, soon to be former, employee’s have access to key information about you business and more importantly your clients.  In the past it has been difficult for this information to be transported out of the business without being easily spotted however with the rise in USB storage devices transport of this data has become much simpler and moreover much more discreet.  So what can you do to stop this, the simplest way is to block USB storage devices and CD/DVD writers to all but the most trusted users.  In order to achieve this you could buy some software to handle endpoint security such as GFI EndPoint Security but for up to 25 computers this costs in excess of £400 which is beyond the reach of most small businesses.  So what can small businesses do to protect themselves; well the answer is through a group policy on the server restrictions can be placed on users or groups of users and I will explain how.

Continue reading

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Better safe than sorry (part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about encrypting data on your notebook computer when you are carrying data around. Within that posting I mentioned TrueCrypt as a program which can be used for this task so for those of you that are interested in it, I mean who wouldn’t as it’s open source, here’s a brief tutorial. Continue reading

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Better safe than sorry

SecurityOver here in the UK there has been a lot in the paper recently about the data losses by some of the key government agencies such as HMRC as well as businesses such as Skipton Building Society much of which was not encrypted data. As you will know there has been much public outcry and quite rightly so but do we have any room to talk?

The fact is that almost every business today owns at least 1 notebook computer and typically that will be taken out to meet clients, to work from home etc. On that notebook there will typically be a great deal of data regarding either your own business or possible about your clients data so do you encrypt your data? The answer is almost certainly no, so how on earth can we complain when other organisations do they same. While I understand that these organisations should know better as they have much larger funding budgets to get people onboard that should be telling them this but the fact of the matter is that very few businesses do this themselves. Recent figures show that the public is 80% more cautious with their personal data than before the HMRC data loss which is a positive move for security. You may think that the data on your notebook is of no value to anyone else but lets just assume for one minute that you loose your notebook and you have the following on it:

  • On it is the payroll figures as you needed to work on them tonight
  • You also have the sales figures for your clients
  • Details of a new proposal for a potential client
  • Documentation regarding a client(s) site, not including passwords

So what is the value of this to anyone else:

  • The payroll data would be invaluable to a headhunter for example. If you had a member of staff who had some very coveted knowledge then they would be able to know where to start with pay offers
    • If the payroll figures included home addresses of employees then this would also be of interest to criminals for identity theft.
  • Sales figures would be of great interest to your competition as they would be able to ascertain the financial value not only of your own company month in month out but also the value of each of you clients each month.
  • Details of a new proposal would again be of interest to your competition as they would then know what you are proposing but more importantly what you are planning to change for this fantastic service. If this proposal is for an IT system this may also be of use to a potential hacker as it may provide information regarding internal systems or security information.
  • Documentation regarding a clients site would almost certainly hold value to a potential intruder if it was technology documentation as it would provide valuable insight into what internal systems they had. If it related to equipment such as phones, plant machinery then again it would have value to competitors or companies in that field.

Continue reading

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Old friends reunited…….

The creators of the BBC computer which many of you out there from the same generation as myself would have been taught in school.  At the time the “beeb”, as it became known, became the a pioneer in the shaping of many aspects of the modern computer systems that we run today.  The original machine was launched in 1981 for £375.00 and was powered by an 8bit processor, 6502 CPU running at 2Mhz, 640×256 screen resolution and eventunally sold 1.5 million units which BBC Microby far exceeded the expected 12,000 units forecast.  This was amazing really at a time when computers were really considered to be the route of all evil and many of the folks around were still carrying wooden clubs and crying “ugh”.

The computer conservation society has organised the reunion of the original creators Hermann Hauser, Steve Furber, John Radcliffe and David Allen; Hauser and Furber worked at Acorn while Radcliffe and Allen came from the BBC.  The project was born from the National Computer Literacy Program which was initiated by the BBC to find a computer which would help to educate both children and parents.

I will personnally have fond memories of the beeb,  as it brings back those years at school and obviously I’m not alone as there are many websites out there dedicated the beeb as well as a host of emulator so I say a big salute to the beeb the pioneer of its day.

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More details on Vista SP1

The latest word on Vista’s SP1 official release to the public looks set to be the 18th March 2008 and will be rolled out as part of the Windows Update program installed on Vista machines.  Microsoft however seem to still be reluctant to commit to a date simply stating that users will receive the update "mid-March" by either selecting the optional update or downloading it from the Microsoft website.  It would appear that the delay has been caused by some issues with hardware drivers which has been an ongoing issue for Vista throughout it’s life so it seems ironic that it is still thwarted by the same problems.  From the 19th March 2008 new buyers will be able to buy copies of Vista which will come pre-installed with Service Pack 1 which it seems may experience a price reduction but time will tell on that one.  So keep the peeled the update is coming and what I have heard and experienced so far has been positive.

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Windows 2003 Service Pack 2 Issues

For sometime I have found that on certain SBS server there have been some network performance issues which do not specifically seem to originate from anywhere specific. When you look at the spec’s of the server there are not bottlenecks or obvious issues but it just doesn’t seem to perform as well as you would expect. We it would seem that the answer is out there in the for of an update from Microsoft. The issue relates specifically with services with Windows 2003 Service Pack 2 installed or the Windows 2003 Scalable Network Pack on a computer that has a TCP/IP Offload-enabled network adapter. There is a number of ways in which this particular issue manifests itself however the one that I am currently looking into is “You experience slow network performance” as there has now been a number of site, one more recently, where the server performance on the new network is worse than the old system. So for any of you that want to look into this further the KB article is as follows http://support.microsoft.com/kb/948496 and its noteworthy that this update has been released as a critical update which means it should find it’s way onto most servers updates automatically however it’s worth checking anyway.

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Spam fritter anyone?

Many of you will already know that Spam is on the increase, it seems as each day goes by it just gets to be a greater number that is passing through each day. We recently started to promote ExchangeDefender, which has proven to be a fantastic product, to all of our clients to reduce the amount of junk that they are getting and it has proved it’s salt 10 times over. Below is just one of many of the spam stats from a domain that we handle…..check out the “real mail” in green.  If anyone is interested in the mail filtering services then please drop me a line.

ExchangeDefender spam graph

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Windows 2008…..the stealth product

As many of you will be aware by now Windows Server 2008 was recently released to manufacture and it has to be one of the stealthiest product launches from Microsoft. There was no fanfare, no by publicity stunts they just released it which seems very strange considering what a major change it is set to be for the Microsoft Server Family. Under the current Windows 2003 family we have the 2 core products which is Small Business Server 2003 and the standard set of Windows 2003 Servers (Web Edition, Standard, Enterprise and Data Centre). This always seemed to lack support for the medium business i.e. over the 75 users limit of SBS but not really big enough to warrent the full blown product suite. So for a business of 100 Essential Business Serverusers which is not really a large business they only had real product set to work with however this has changed in the new Windows Server 2008 product family. It still retains SBS which has the traditional 75 user limit, however the next step is now Essential Business Server which is suitable for businesses from 25 to 250 users which is a huge leap forward for businesses. I will post more about the 2008 Server family soon but for now heres a little more information on Essential Business Server from the official EBS Team blog

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Givers gain…

MeetingIn any business it is hard to get business in especially when you are a new business. There is an overwhelming choice of mediums to consider; you have yell.com, Yellow Pages, local papers, local chamber of commerce, cold calling, mailshots, the list goes on. What I can tell you from experience, as will many other business owners, is that the business that you will get above all else is by “word of mouth”. JPT Solutions has always gained business by word of mouth referral and it continues to however the problem with this is that it is the slowest medium to use as it is minimal exposure and opportunistic at best. What I mean by this is that if you do a really good job for a client then if someone is talking to them and say that they need a good “IT company” or a good “accountant” or whatever you business is then they will most likely pass on your details. However, then problem is had that person not have asked the question then your details would not have been passed and those occasions only come few and far between.

So what can you do to push this forward faster? The best thing to do is to build partnerships with people and establish relationships with people who can help your business, this is exactly what I did. Many successful business people talk about “networking” and myself like many other people was not really the type as I find it hard to walk into a room full of strangers and put myself out there. That said it is a truly great way to get your name out there and make people realise that you are here waiting to work for them. This is why when I was invited along to a networking meeting by someone I know I jumped at the chance as it got me past the first hurdle of not knowing anyone there. Once I got there I was made to feel very welcome and the atmosphere was positively bubbling which was amazing considering that we had to be there at 6:45am!!! The result was that after second visit I was sold and I signed up to a regular Wednesday morning meeting at 6:45am which meant that I occupied the IT Support chair in the chapter. Now 3 months on I have found that the group has provided me with support as well as business for my company as each of those people are out there looking for business for me and whenever someone asks for IT support my details are passed. Likewise, if anyone asks me an Estate Agent, Financial Advisor, IT Trainer etc I have contacts that I trust completely to fulfil my clients needs with total professionalism.

Now after being a member for 3 months I have been made a part of the leadership team and one of our ongoing challenges is to grow the chapter which in doing so will bring more business to it’s member. With that in mind if anyone is interested in coming along for a meeting please contact me, we meet in Nottingham each Wednesday morning and everyone is welcome. If you are not from around Nottingham then contact me anyway and I will put you in contact with your local group.

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