Thursday, 30 May 2013

Don't Do This

We had a request come through about setting a phone extension up and then report that it wasn't working. When visiting the room it was discovered it had recently been refurbished... and they had this...

That's right! New trunking and sockets had been installed, and rather than cabling back to the data cabinet, the sockets have been cabled through the bottom of the trunking to a mini-switch stuck to the wall. Idiots!

Not only have they used inferior quality cables and added a network device without consulting with us, there is also the probability of multiple calls to fix problems where someone has turned the power off when they are not using it (as demonstrated today).

Added to this, the sockets are not labeled so you don't know which is which. One cable has a piece of electrical tape on it so I am guessing this is the uplink?

Another example of Estates departments trying to do things on the cheap rather than sticking to the IT spec.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Twitter Two-factor Authentication - a warning

Twitter has recently rolled out Two-Factor (or Two-Step) verification for logging into accounts. This is after a large number of high-profile hacks recently (BBC, The Telegraph, The Guardian. Financial Times), as well as many that didn't get lots of attention. A video about their implementation of 'login verification' can be seen on their blog here.

Why it might not work for teams

I am sceptical that this form of protection will do much for the companies that are targeted. Firstly, it requires having a mobile number set up on the account. How do multiple journalists in a company the size of the BBC, for example, post 24 hours from anywhere with only one mobile able to verify their identity? Many companies may choose to leave this new feature switched off to enable to teams to have continued access.

This is also due to the second problem they could face. Twitter only allows a mobile number to be associated to ONE Twitter username. So, again using the BBC example, there would need to be different mobiles (that you can't lose) for @BBCBreaking, @BBCNews, @BBCWorld, @BBCSport, @BBCworldservice, @BBCPolitics, etc etc etc.

Why it won't work for me

My mobile phone provider, EE, has the most subscribers in the UK (26.1million Dec 2012). Yet when I tried to enable login verification on my Twitter account EE was not an option, neither was T-mobile who they amalgamated with Orange.

Orange was on the list but, and here's the warning, if you try this when you are a new EE subscriber or formerly a T-mobile customer, rather than an EE-formerly-Orange-customer IT WON'T WORK AND YOU WILL BE LOCKED OUT OF YOUR ACCOUNT. Why this is, when Orange is part of EE, I don't know and there doesn't seem to be too much written about it on the web. For now I will just have to hope Twitter will work on and make a different authentication process available.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Google updates

It's been just over a week since Google I/O, the conference where traditionally a load of new Google products and services are announced. Since then I keep discovering lots of new little features in things like Google+, Play Music and Hangouts. Then today we got a major update to the Google Drive app. As a University that uses Google Apps we use Drive an awful lot so it was interesting to see what was in the update.

The first thing that caught my eye was the OCR. I previously used a separate app called CamScanner to take pictures of documents and use Optical Character Recognition to pick out words in them and make them searchable PDF's. Drive now has this functionality built in.

Also added is the ability to make a lot more changes to spreadsheets on the move. You can now make a number of changes to cells and fonts from the app.

As with all the recent Google product updates, the Drive layout has changed to a gridview (or card-view if you prefer). I have not been sold completely on the style changes on the whole. I still haven't got used to the new Google+ layout, you either have to hop around to read the posts in order or have most of the screen empty white space. The scrolling too can be annoying, especially when a bar keeps popping across the top the way annoying ads used to before pop-up blockers.

On the other hand it can be very clean and Google will want to unify the look across the product range. I thought the Google Now card style looked so tidy I even changed my work phone to mimic it (screenshot below - I also have cards for maps/navigation, calendar and weather).


A few other little annoyances are that the Hangouts app doesn't tell you who is online (the way Google Talk used to before Hangouts replaced it) and that the 'shuffle all' option has gone from Google Play Music. I think Play Music is an excellent product but it is annoying now having to 'queue' songs or just play from a pre-arranged or Google-defined list. I like the option of having a random selection from my collection.

I have replaced Google Reader with Feedly on my desktop and mobile. As it is being closed on 1st July. Since I first looked at Feedly I have seen a number of improvements and can recommend it highly. However, it does struggle sometimes finding feeds that Google Reader would add with ease.

A quite clever little addition I only recently noticed was in Google+, if you are sharing your location with someone, when they look at your profile and hover the cursor over your location, it changes their huge banner picture on their profile to a Google Map showing where they are. You can also see this information on mobile by scrolling left to the menu and then picking 'Locations'. This can then display all the people who are sharing their location data with you on a map.

Overly-attached-girlfriend's take note!