Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Real Professionals Make Interviews Pleasurable

While on my job search, I occasionally find people and places where things are done right, and I wish to bestow a few kudos this morning...

First, to the ITS staff of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. While their boss was away, they were tasked with interviewing for a new LAN Administrator, and so they did it in the most practical way I've found: as a team. The new employee was expected to work with three other staff members as part of a team, so the remaining team members collectively interviewed the candidates, discussing job knowledge, background, and indirectly learning how they would all get along. I'm given to believe I almost got that job, but still count it as a great interview. They even had someone personally call me with the results, as well as the slightly more common e-mail rejection.

I also wish to offer kudos to the recruiting team at Robert Half Technology in Tampa. In interviewing me for possible contract work, they were thorough, understanding, and practical, and even had me take a couple tests, the results of which they could use to make my case before prospects.

I'm still on the available list, but if I were lucky enough to encounter more professionals like those at Eckerd College and Robert Half Technology, I think I'd be back among the employed in no time.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Curbing auto tag theft

There are some really desperate (and despicable) people out there.

Last night, someone stole Bocona's license tag from her car.

Now, irritating as this was, it took her a little while to calm down from the personal violation she felt (any victim of theft probably feels the same way). Then we started speculating why the perp did it.

As any TV viewer would tell you, the perp probably wanted to disguise his/her involvement in a felony... right?

Well, probably not. It isn't like we have a lot of that kind of behavior going on around here, and putting a stolen tag on your car isn't going to make you stand out that much less as you get away from that bank robbery.

No, the more likely reason, in our minds, is that some undocumented alien wanted to drive a car.

It's like this. Being undocumented, the alien didn't have a U.S.-issued driver's license. Without a license, he/she could not buy insurance. Without insurance, he/she cannot register the car or get a tag for it. Without a tag, he/she runs a bigger chance of being apprehended and deported.

So, the perp steals a tag (and wouldn't it be funny if the tag that was stolen was one that someone else had already stolen?) to put on his/her unregistered car, expecting no LEO will run the tag if he/she obeys traffic laws... and that's probably the case.

Meanwhile, Bocona can't drive her car until the tag office issues her a replacement (on Monday, hopefully).

Bocona feels we can solve this problem by removing our use of the driver's license as a form of identification. In other words, had the undocumented alien been able to buy insurance and register a car, our tag theft problem would drop dramatically. While we're at it, by allowing undocumented aliens to get driver's licenses, we can probably reduce a number of traffic-related incidents.

I disagree. Allowing the undocumented to obtain licenses, insurance, and register vehicles only makes them a little more documented, which is something they don't seem capable of doing, or they'd do it already. A driver's license is supposed to prove the bearer's ability to drive according to the issuing state's laws. There has to be an identifying component to that. Likewise, it's hard to issue proper insurance to a pseudonym, and I'd rather not go back to having people driving cars without insurance (which the undocumented do... even when they're in their own country). Unless we're willing to give up those extra requirements, letting the undocumented get driver's licenses won't solve this problem.

To my thinking, they problem is only truly solved by eliminating the lack of documentation. Make it very distasteful to the undocumented to be undocumented. Take away their reason for being undocumented. And that leads to some very draconian measures.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I wonder if the U.S. Congress keeps backups

I just learned about an article in News.com that tells of a bill introduced to the U.S. Congress requiring every web site operator to delete information about visitors if the data is no longer required for legitimate business purposes.

I guess Congress hasn't learned anything about its own nature from the Can SPAM law. That, or our Congresspeople have such high opinions of themselves that they think they have a grasp of the technology their dealing with. How else can you explain how such a stupid idea could threaten to become law?

I suppose it might reduce identity theft (the intended goal), if there weren't already so many ways information is kept "for legitimate business purposes." But look at some of the ways such a law might impact the Internet.

First, remember this is a U.S. only law we're talking about. So, data accumulated by web site operators outside the U.S. would be exempt from the law. Result: a whole bunch of businesses can save themselves a lot of heartache by moving their sites to off-shore web hosts, and domestic web hosts, already steeply competing for business, will face possible extinction.

I've seen it said that web server logs, which contain host identifying information such as IP addresses and machine names, may be forced to become self-editing to remove that information. Without the identifying information in web server logs, security professionals would no longer have an important tool in tracing the origins of attacks.

Sites that accept feedback from participants, such as blogs, forums/bulletin boards, or chat systems, will be greatly impacted, since they will no longer be allowed to associate a name to an e-mail address (or likely even be permitted to display either one). Assuming they even could, they would then have to have all of these services heavily moderated to prevent the display of proscribed information.

And if the web sites can't hold all of this information, what does that say about the backup tapes for these sites? When the data is no longer needed for "legitimate business purposes" it must be deleted from the sites. Shouldn't that mean the data must be removed from the backups as well?

Then there's the webmail systems, which are expected to maintain personal communications for eventual display/delivery via the browser. How can one possibly separate personal identifying information from e-mail data being stored for delivery on a web site? Ban webmail?

Okay, maybe some of these examples are extreme, but it would take a lawyer to figure out what behavior is allowed and what behavior is not. If this bill is allowed to become law, you can pretty well say goodbye to the American web site, and with that comes the eventual demise of the Internet - not from over use, but from disuse!

On the other hand, if American politicians can't keep from creating Internet policy, maybe we'd be better off letting it die!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Just to be sure, let's get this straight...

I just want to clarify my position on the state of the U.S./Mexican border. My last few blogs display a degree of irritation toward the attitudes taken by both the U.S. and Mexican governments over the apparent involvement by Mexican soldiers in protecting escaping drug smugglers. I called for, and still call for, government authorization for the Border Patrol to intervene in future incursions by alleged Mexican soldiers with force, if necessary. If the soldiers are not genuine, they are still abetting drug trafficking, and if they are genuine, they are not only abetting drug trafficking, they are violating the sovereignty of the United States. There is simply no excuse.

Illegal border crossings, in general, is another matter, one not so easily addressed. The problem really isn't an immigration problem as much as it is an economic problem. For a touch of insight, I encourage readers to watch the movie "A Day Without A Mexican" (and forgive me for recommending a decidedly cheesy film). While the content is presented with a strong bias, it should make you think.

Both the American economy and the Mexican economy depend on Mexicans crossing the U.S. border to find work. The movie makes a point I haven't seen elsewhere in the media: if it costs x dollars to provide social services to illegal aliens, how much do illegal aliens contribute to our gross domestic product (GDP)... and is it worth the cost of services to lose the related GDP? And don't forget the cost to Homeland Security for chasing down these aliens.

Now, I'm not saying "open the borders," either. What I am saying is that the illegal alien issue is far more complicated than the drug trafficking issue, or more specifically Mexican military involvement in drug trafficking. We don't need new laws to deal with the latter. We only need to enforce the laws that exist a little more aggressively.

We don't need new fences. We simply need to teach the Mexican military to stay on its side of the border.