Silver bullets do exist, you just have to find yours. Wait…

UPDATE: I was just kidding, in case anyone didn’t notice. If you’re here for the first time then I’m trying to be cynical.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing that you see very clearly when looking back at some events. Most of the time you wish the hindsight were actually insights, i.e. you knew about something before you got to where you are as you reflect on things. This tends to be a problem, something that often tastes like a regret. Hindsight is one of the characteristics of Silver Bullets. Silver Bullets can be found everywhere if you looked carefully and with the right timing.

Where do you find Silver Bullets? How do you recognise any if you saw one?

I obviously won’t give away the precious answers just like that. Let me give a few general tips though. I’ll leave it up to you to do the rest of the work.

A silver bullet:

  • is a proven best practice, best in class solution that is particularly well suited to your very specific needs
  • gives your organisation a unique competitive advantage over the rest, despite being a proven best practice
  • is very cost-effective, it solves your business puzzles and challenges without creating new ones
  • makes all your stakeholder groups very happy while only requiring negligible compromises
  • powers the specific business model you have selected without any further consequences to you
  • helps decision makers’ career: nobody ever loses his/her job because of a silver bullet, on the contrary you get praises for your foresight and imaginative approach to solving business problems.

If you’ve been reading, this should be enough clues to get you started in finding the specific Silver Bullets that befits your organisation.

Often overlooked PC security challenges

A less talked about fact: PC security challenges often lie with a weaker link, the user indeed. Here are examples of why that might be:

  • [Microsoft Windows] update notifications are often ignored by users. Looking over people shoulder I’ve seen many simply click away without ever bothering to read call-to-action messages and never letting the software update install
  • Web browser security also rely on people reviewing SSL certificates prior to visiting a page, users routinely ignore such warnings and carry on anyway. In fact users would happily follow any URL they get, they rarely check what they’re clicking on
  • Lugging around “garbage” : anything that can be installed gets installed, often case never or rarely used afterwards. This is a waste of system resources, PCs become irremediably cluttered and potentially damaging software is kept around. Only a rebuild will remedy such situations.

Enterprise deployments often remedy these risks by locking down PCs and forcing users through ever lasting roaming profile upload/downloads. Let’s get heavy handed and deprive people of their “liberty”. I’ve seen login and logout processes taking up to 10 minutes to complete, that’s insane! It gets even worse when using systems management software that jump in willy-nilly and start downloading huge software upgrades while you’re trying to get on with your work. Clearly you are working for your PC, not the other way around. If managers would calculate the productivity loss due to such soviet-style systems they’d have a fit. The next frontier in enterprise productivity battles is in fighting these clunky systems management software.

It seems as though people are pitching usability against security. Making users responsible for the security of their own PCs is probably as risky as leaving those systems wide open. This is not because people are dumb, it’s mainly because the whole notion of computer security and the tools of the trade are esoteric and pose totally unreasonable demands on users.

Good computer security starts with a good design, if it’s not build to be usable and secure it can never be properly usable and/or secure to use.

“The seemingly impossible is possible”

I quote here Hans Rosling, a man with great understanding of human societies. Not knowing about Hans Rosling is akin to illiteracy for anyone involved in international development or the aid industry.

TED Talks is a place where great videos can be found. I’m not talking about watching a dog skating or Chris Crocker, two of YouTube hits. I’m talking about well put together presentations that really teach you something new, serious talks from serious people nicely packaged.

One of the most inspirational videos I’ve seen of late is Hans Rosling single-handedly redefining the notions of development and progress. Hans’ approach to analysing and presenting statistics is very refreshing and certainly a novelty to me. It tells me that nothing is really new under the sun. There are mainly changed interpretations, new insights leading to new ways of thinking or new behaviours. Evolutionists would talk about evolutionary changes, there’s a truth in that.

Hans Rosling brings us the sort of new insight that makes us think differently and hopefully behave differently. What’s knowledge worth if not applied? In the world we live in today, it pays more than ever to free your mind and open your eyes, the rewards can be priceless while costing you nothing. Pun intentional. History will probably place Hans and his colleagues amongst the champions of Enlightenment 2.0 – I’m referring to the contemporary equivalent of the eighteen century european Enlightenment movement, a fiction of mine naturally.

Back to back I watched two presentations:

  1. Andrew Mwenda: Let’s take a new look at African aid. then,
  2. Hans Rosling’s masterful presentation: New insights on poverty and life around the world.

After visualising these two videos I wondered what we learn from the story of Cuba. The country is said to have a very high level of litteracy and one of the world’s best health care systems. It’d be interesting to hear Hans Rosling’s opinion about this. Perhaps I should just get his book Global Health to find out.

When FUD is over-stretched

I can perfectly see why a web browser would carry a ‘Home’ button, after wandering about for a while one sometimes desire to ‘get back Home’. I don’t use it all too often but it doesn’t bother me much. Folks at Camino and Safari understood this, the ‘Home’ button is not that prominent and can easily be removed from these products’ toolbar.

However, a ‘home’ menu option on an office productivity suite is baffling to me. What’s that suppose to mean? Sure, clutter-free context-sensitive tasks and menu options are nice improvements. But who’s idea was it to replace ‘File’ with ‘Home’? This is not only counter-intuitive, it smacks of well…fear.

Microsoft’s focus on improving user interface is encouraging, the new Office suite and Windows Vista experience have seen notable improvements. But a ‘Home’ menu is out of place on the Office toolbar (or whatever they now call it). Giants like them could stay level headed and introduce the right innovations, not confuse their users with such cheap tricks. An office suite is conceptually closer to a toolkit than a city map, there simply can’t be any notion of ‘Home’ in the former.