Category Archives: Technology

AT&T Preps for New Layoffs Despite Billions in Tax Breaks and Regulatory Favors – Motherboard

More than a few people thought I lost my mojo, when I left Cingular, the phone industry, and my Senior WAN Engineer career back in 2004, and refused an immediate, and good work offer from Ericsson, both because they wanted 25% travel, and because 90% of the time I’d be working on site at the place I just left, Cingular Wireless..That was their only reason for wanting to hire me, to keep taking advantage of my WAN and GPRS expertise. My main reasoning was that I’d deduced working for any US phone company is toxic to the soul, and I figured being contractor was worse. I really wanted to go back to my Linux Systems Management roots – monitoring, network security, automating systems. It’s still applicable, in today’s clouds.

Things were honestly different when I first started working for Ameritech Cellular in Hoffman Estates back in 1994. They had quite a few honest leaders the first few years. Stand up, honest people with real leadership skills. But that kind of environment can easily fall victim to dishonest leaders. Eventually the contractors took over, moral went out the window, and everyone who didn’t agree with the VP’s choices, they tended to leave, instead of fight. The average work attitude took a huge dive after it became obvious that politics ruled all, and any measurable results didn’t mean anything when it came time for rewards and appreciation.

Of course, a while after I unceremoniously left, I heard a couple of times from a couple of former co-workers that my name was raised often enough as someone who would have figured out a solution to a problem they were currently having, that the VP who personally arranged my write-up and removal totally blew up, and yelled at them to figure it out themselves, and never mention my name again. As if hearing that should make me feel better. Okay, I laughed. I hate having to prove my value to a corporation by leaving my job. I’ve done it too many times. The real problem is the market niche I fill is disappearing. I need more real world experience with cloud automation tools.

Last summer I voluntarily retired from ADP, mostly because I wanted the monetary incentive they dangled in front of me. They were going to PAY ME to go away and find another job working for a better boss who didn’t belittle, insult, ignore, and generally hate everyone from Georgia? Maybe I’m not being fair. I was offered a chance to move to New Jersey, so I’d be working in the office with the rest of that team. At the time, I declined. In hindsight, that was a very good decision. If I lived up in New Jersey when I left ADP, I’d probably be working at a company in the city of New York, and I’m claustrophobic, so that wouldn’t be pleasant.

Instead, I took a six month contract job, because it was starting immediately (I had only been given 3 weeks advance notice of my impending retirement date), and the job location was very close to home. In fact, I had been passing it, every day on my way to ADP, for the past six years. So the drive was even shorter. The only downside was the job was third shift, 10pm-6am, and since I was the last guy added on the shift, my work schedule changed as our work needs changed. At first, I was working Tuesday 10pm thru Sunday 6am, and that was okay. Then I moved to Sunday 10pm thru Friday 6am, and that was better.

Then they announced they were outsourcing most of their IT functionality to an Indian contracting firm, to save money. Some of us had our jobs spared, and we’ve heard from multiple senior people in charge that there will be no more reducing of head count, but how can we trust them? They’ve recently announced their desire to reduce costs by millions of dollars this next quarter, so the prevailing mood across all three shifts is that we’re all gone by June.

Most of the old timers have been sticking around mostly because they like their job and co-workers, and are all looking forward to the layoff package they’ve been giving to others. Entirely closing the department would totally suck for me, because I am not even eligible to earn a yearly bonus until 2020. And I’d be out in the marketplace with a few too many other talented souls too. But I’m honestly not totally afraid, but only because it makes no sense to me for them to fire all their sr support talent, without giving their indian peers 6-12 months to learn all their secrets, so they can replace them later. I’ve been there over 6 months now, and only get about 20% of it. I regularly learn new “quirks” of a few of the hundreds of apps that we run.

I think we could save a lot of money simply by advancing the migration to the cloud, which is something we all agree we need. We could achieve significant cost benefits by migrating the appropriate work load to multiple independent cloud service providers, using carefully selected open source software, and various commercial software development and hardware/software support solutions. I’m pretty sure, than with a the addition of a couple of experienced, professional project managers, we could probably migrate 50% of their applications within a year, and save enough money to warrant an investment into moving the next 40% in the following year.

Turn everything into sets of auto-scaling multi-tier cloud apps, using open standards whenever possible, and commercial solutions whenever necessary. Builds, changes, decommissioning, all ought to be totally automated, built with internally developed Web GUIs and shared repositories, to be a totally cloud-agnostic solution, using tools like Terraform and Chef, to create images, launch images, upgrade a tier to a new image in a rolling fashion, or an A/B fashion, roll back a tier to a previous version of the image, run diagnostics.

Simply by focusing on two cost intensive areas first, the huge scale revenue generating apps and all of the standard three tier proxy/app/db style apps, the most common and well understood auto-scaling cloud apps can be taken advantage of, and enough money can be saved, and reliability. The larger scale apps only need to be configured into a distributed federation of multiple auto-scaling tiers (proxy/app/db). Why have just two or three data centers to support the world. Why not 6-8 smaller pods across the globe (east coast, west coast, asia pacific, china, India, east Africa, east europe, uk, canada), each supporting locally sourced traffic, in support of a distributed virtual database solution.

Wouldn’t you prefer be more worried about where you’ can get the best cloud costs, and about how much each application cost per hotel, and less about “how to we handle traffic spikes? How do we know we have enough capacity? How do we handle sudden web traffic load spikes generated by viral marketing campaigns, like we had last week?

Why not have app-servers auto-respond to OutOfMemory errors, thread count thresholds, or high heap loads, by automatically taking whatever dumps the developers want, and shutting down. Let the load balancing algorithms recover if the load is high enough to warrant it. Developers can be judged by the average number of incidents generated when various errors or crashes occur. This is exactly what Splunk, ElasticSearch, and Spark were created for. Right now, we have a short list of various metrics to track, and (unfortunately) fewer well defined reactions to take when metric thresholds are violated. I’d rather have a team of 17 taking care of the monitoring system configurations seven b y twenty-four. Let the OCC-L2 keep monitoring all cloud infrastructure, and app performance issues from the various monitoring systems.

Internal documents obtained by Motherboard show that the company is preparing for layoffs—megamergers, deregulation, and tax breaks aren’t providing the public benefits AT&T promised.

Source: AT&T Preps for New Layoffs Despite Billions in Tax Breaks and Regulatory Favors – Motherboard

AT&T decides 4G is now “5G,” starts issuing icon-changing software updates | Ars Technica

They did the exact same thing when 4G was brand new and not well understood. AT&T simply lied and changed all the phone icons and just told everyone that their 3.5G phones were upgraded to 4G, and people bought it. That’s why everyone uses the generic “LTE” marketing label to mean “the actual 4G standard”. Now they say change our icons again, and try to convince us that “5Ge” means “the actual 4G standard”. I wonder what generic marketing label will eventually mean “the actual 5G standard”.

From what I’ve read about the actual 5G standards, it’ll use higher frequencies, which will be better for super fast wifi replacement than wide area cellular coverage. Higher frequencies don’t penetrate buildings or even internal walls well. It’ll mean 5G cell sites will have to be much closer together compared to 4G. It’ll probably end up being easier to implement 5G in cities and any crowded urban center. They’ve been looking for a good way to support all 45,000 cell phones at a football stadium, or rock concert or political protest, all trying to text, send photos, or stream a brief video to their friends. Law enforcement would much rather know who said what when, than block communications.

The cancellation of the net neutrality laws can only mean we’re destined to end up with commercially operated walled garden of the Internet, where only “safe” (ie government approved) DNS host names can be connected to, using only approved communication protocols, are allowed to be used when communicating with other entities.

When I talk about walled gardens, we had that exact thing not that long ago. That’s how WAP worked, when we first got 2G mobile internet on cell phones. The feds and phone profit maximizers all loved that shit, they could charge by the byte. It was just like low res dialup Internet, but even slower, more restricted, and highly controlled by a few companies who made profits by selling their WAP server software to phone vendors around the world.. Thankfully the whole WAP/2G internet lasted maybe 6 years total, until the iPhone revolution and the Android graphic UI clone came out. As soon as standard HTML was available, everybody dumped that WAP crap. Customers didn’t want it, content providers didn’t want to produce it, and no amount of ascii porn could sell it.

Initially we’ll accept the walls of our new garden in the name of finding the terrorists within, keeping our innocent children safe, fighting computer viruses and protecting you from hackers. Then providers will have to decide between offering the dangerous, unfiltered Internet, or the newer, America First, safer, filtered option. Maybe it’ll take 30 years, but the Disney Internet will eventually win. And then we’ll never know what ideas exists outside the magic protective garden walls. Baaah!

AT&T starts swapping out “4G” status bar icons with “5GE.”

Source: AT&T decides 4G is now “5G,” starts issuing icon-changing software updates | Ars Technica

My Next Desktop PC

I’m pretty convinced my current choice for my next desktop PC is an Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) gen 8 core i7 HVK with Radeon RX Vega M Graphics. I was surprised it’s max memory capacity is still only 32GB, the same my current late 2012 iMac. I still use VirtualBox to boot new OSs, to keep my tech skills up-to-date, so the higher memory can be justified.

I’m loving the Firefox Multi-Account Containers add-on, so different types of content are handled by independant virtual browsers, keeping credentials for things like home banking in separate namespaces, far apart from news browsing, podcast consumption, shopping credentials.

The NUC8 is an affordable platform, and uses awesome technology, but I keep hoping the NUC9 will be announced soon, with even faster RAM. I’ve been reading about the NUC8 for a whole year. I do own a home server on an older NUC6, with dual-core core i7 and hyper-threading, so 4 virtual CPUs, fast nVME SSD, slower SATA disk, and 32 GB RAM.

I keep wondering why AMD doesn’t offer a small ThreadRipper mini-itx motherboard and desktop, sort of a NUC-like small home enthusiast form factor. They could influence quite a few influencers that way, and generate lots of real world benchmarks. Or maybe they don’t really want that. Who knows.

The smaller platforms will need to make some trade-offs. I’d want to see one or two 32-core ThreadRipper/EpyC CPUs, with 256 to 2048 GB RAM across 4 or more memory channels, lots of high speed usb-c ports, usb2/3 type A ports, yadda yadda. With no memory, the base box should be well under a thousand, to give people a way to try them out with less risk.

macOS 10.14 Mojave Drops Support for Many Older Machines

I am currently using one of the oldest platforms supported by their latest OS, late 2012 iMac core i7. Whew! Just made the cut. Guess that means this is the last major version of macOS this beast will ever run. Feels like hearing your pet is dying of cancer. Kinda. Sorta.

This is why I am trying to retreat from the Apple ecosystem. I want my technology to last, and I can’t do that on devices that simply get “dropped”, and become useless, after just 5 years. Ubuntu Linux LTS releases, which come out every 2 years, are each supported for 10 years, and run nicely on most popular hardware. Thank you very much.

Source: macOS 10.14 Mojave Drops Support for Many Older Machines – MacRumors