Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beating the odds by mind mapping IT projects

Monday night (26-Nov-2007), I delivered a presentation to IT professionals at the Waterloo Wellington Information Technology Professionals IT Forum event held at triOS College in downtown Kitchener. My presentation was a look at how to use mind mapping techniques to manage IT projects.

I've presented other talks to our group about mind mapping before, but this presentation focused on project management, especially on using MindJet's MindManager Pro v7.0 and the add-on Project Management JetPack to conduct project management without the headaches associated with a complete deployment and rollout of Microsoft Project and/or Project Server to the enterprise.

For many companies, Microsoft Project is overkill. More importantly, the time and energy required to deploy and train staff in the proper use of a full-blown Enterprise Project Management solution can sabotage project management initiatives before they're started. That's because everyone needs to understand how to use MS Project before team collaboration with the tool will be successful. For many, that's simply too big a hurdle to contemplate.

With mind mapping (especially MindManager Pro), only team leaders need to have familiarity with the tool - the viewer will be sufficient for everyone else on the project team. Even then, if you determine that you do need the resource and scheduling management tools in MS Project, you can readily include MS Project in the entire solution matrix, but only for project managers. In other words, deployment of both MindManager Pro and MS Project can be limited to project managers with everyone else using standard viewers and Microsoft Office productivity tools like MS Word and MS Excel.

But in addition to the deployment and training savings, using mind mapping techniques reaps rewards in productivity and team collaboration that I've not seen matched in any other software category. Download my presentation in PDF format for a full description of how this works.

If you decide to do that, you'll see an example of a new PowerPoint methodology I'm trying out called Beyond Bullet Points or BBP, something which I think will improve my presentation quality dramatically. The developer of BBP, Cliff Atkinson, also has his own blog and web site devoted to the methodology.

Reviewing the HTC 6800

While attending the Security Education Conference in Toronto (SECTOR) last week, a colleague from Microsoft Canada, Ruth Morton, and I took some time out to do a video review of our cell phone/Pocket PC of choice these days, the HTC 6800 from Bell Mobility. Thanks to another Microsoft Canada IT Pro Advisor, Damir Bersinic, for getting those devices into our hands in the first place!

Ruth and I have never done a vlog before, so the experience was experimental, but ultimately successful, especially in having post-production work done by a Microsoft Canada intern, Majid Mirza.

Video: HTC 6800 Review

If you're anything like me, you may not like watching yourself in video. I certainly feel that way when I see this review. But, I think the message gets across anyway.

A lot of my IT pro colleagues use Blackberry devices, and I can certainly understand the appeal. But I've resisted, instead choosing Windows Mobile devices which give me the operating system that is closest to what I use with my notebook computer and whose Office Mobile applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) work almost exactly the same way on my mobile device as on my notebook computer.

The HTC 6800 doesn't disappoint in this regard, being one of the first Windows Mobile 6 devices available in Canada. By now, there are probably several more choices available, but the point is that for me the choice of operating system has always had priority over the hardware features. Having the newest Windows Mobile operating system also means that I have to upgrade my mobile productivity applications, but that's almost always a good thing anyway. My particular favorite add-on application is Pocket Informant 2007 which takes advantage of a desktop add-on I use regularly for Microsoft Outlook called Franklin Covey PlanPlus for Outlook v.5. In concert, these two add-on's provide extended features beyond what Outlook and Mobile Outlook provide, the most important of which are simplified project management and task prioritization. The management screens on both the desktop and Pocket PC platforms for both software packages are also superior to the default screens in Outlook.

With my new HTC 6800, I've got what amounts to a computer on my belt clip. All my projects, tasks, contacts (over 2500 now), email, Mobile Office files and productivity applications are now available to me wherever I might be. And having the QWERTY slide keyboard just makes it that much easier to take notes and update all those productivity applications. But the device also has more flash memory, a Wi-Fi/Cellular switch, a decent camera and camcorder and an incredibly rugged and reliable casing, along with a snug stylus holder, a great belt clip accessory and several other hardware accessories to round out the user experience.

Take a look at the vlog and let me know what you think about my and your device!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

SecTor 2007 - Blue Christmas?

I know a little about computer security, not a lot, but enough to be aware of where individuals and businesses are vulnerable. I've dealt with attacks and breaches, formed a response team, and been responsible for policies and procedures to mitigate risk. But when I go to a security education conference like this (, I realize that there is so much more to know and understand.

One session I attended this morning was all about Bluetooth vulnerabilities. The presenter was Dino Covotsos from TelSpace who traveled all the way from South Africa to be in attendance (if you want to see the PowerPoint presentation, you can view it here). One of the slides Dino used included video of hackers using Bluetooth technology to inject audio into the phone of an unsuspecting mark buying a coffee in a Starbucks Coffee shop so that when he asked for a coffee, there was an additional audio message asking the waitress for her phone number. Even more interesting was the use of Bluetooth technology to actually transfer funds from an account for the Chief Technology Officer of a bank. Yikes!

Most of us think that Bluetooth is simply a cool way to go wireless with our cell phones, or possibly to use a headset with our MP3 player, or to use a game controller for the Sony PlayStation. And to some degree that's right.

But hackers are able to do so much more including hijacking Bluetooth-enabled cell phones to make calls to 1-900 numbers, garnering hundreds of dollars an hour in a London public space. They are able to track the physical movements of individuals over a period of days in the Netherlands, thereby enabling profiling that is quite dangerous. They are able to capture bank account numbers, social insurance numbers, and entire phone books, SMS text messages, and an incredible amount of other personal information that most of us would be ashamed to find stolen so readily. And they are able to follow cars up to two miles away and listen in on all the conversations going on in that car.

Part of the problem is simply lack of education. But part is also owing to manufacturers using default PIN numbers like 0000 or 1234. Another part of the problem is that Bluetooth scanning devices can be built for about $750, something within the reach of almost everybody. Part of the problem is also the almost overwhelming desire for convenience., for example, has a five-part series on cell phone technology this week, part of which deals with using cell phones instead of debit or credit cards.

All the parts of this jig-saw puzzle of Bluetooth technology mean that it will be an uphill battle working towards more security in the use of Bluetooth-enabled devices. In the meantime, I may simply turn off Bluetooth unless I have an immediate short-term need. And it may mean that I forego buying Bluetooth-enabled devices for family members this Christmas.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

SecTor 2007 - Inside and Dangerous

What is the greatest information system security threat facing companies today? According to a poll of information security managers, 87% of respondents say disgruntled employees are the worst threat they face. Ninety-two percent of actual attacks were motivated by revenge. Sixty-two percent of those attacks were planned in advance. Here's the kicker, though - 80% of those perpetrating attacks were under suspicion already within their organizations.

So why don't we hear about insider threats when talking about computer security.

Part of the answer to that question has to do with embarrassment. I mean should we expect to hear from Seagate directly that some of their hard drives were compromised and responsible for personal information being transferred to hackers in China? If you answered no, then you might be surprised to hear that Seagate did, in fact, 'fess up recently. Still, it's reasonable to assume that most privately held companies will not necessarily broadcast when insiders (or, in Seagate's case a subcontractor) are responsible for introducing vulnerabilities into their products or systems.

My own experience, limited as it is, would only partially confirm these lessons about insider threats. My viewpoint is simply that insider attacks happen far more frequently than most managers believe possible. Most are not particularly sophisticated. Most can be predicted at least to some extent. And most will never be reported publicly.

All of this from the first breakout session at SecTor at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, a session with Kevin Coleman of technolytics.

Saturday, November 17, 2007 series on Going Mobile

This should be very interesting. Beginning Monday, 19-Nov-2007, will be delivering a 5-day series on its technology pages about the impact and future of the humble cell phone. Here's what will be covered:

  • Day 1: Competition and confusion in the cell phone market place
  • Day 2: Wireless competition in Canada and using cell phones instead of debit/credit cards
  • Day 3: RIM, Google, and iPhone, the future, and social networking
  • Day 4: Wireless technology in the 3rd world and in the human body
  • Day 5: Landlines and cell phones, cyborgs, and spirituality


One of the messages to IT professionals - especially IT managers - is to watch out for Gen-Y innovations, one of which is the pervasive appeal and infiltration of mobile devices into the IT infrastructure. This series will claim "we ain't seen nothin' yet!"

Friday, November 16, 2007

Microsoft Virtualization Newsletter

I recently published a two-part series on the IT Manager Connection blog about virtualization. The series dealt with the rationale and resources available for IT managers considering this technology. In the resources entry, I mentioned Microsoft's virtualization newsletter (If you wish to subscribe to this newsletter, you will need a Windows Live ID, a freely available credential providing easy access to MSN Messenger, MSN Hotmail, etc). This newsletter is slated to review technology news headlines and the benefits of virtualization, including customer success stories.

The November issue arrived in my Inbox yesterday afternoon. After reading this issue, I have to say that my enthusiasm for virtualization continues to grow on an almost daily basis.

In this issue, for example, we read about Microsoft's rationale for integrating its version of hypervisor virtualization into the core operating system for Windows Server 2008; we also get brief glimpses into both Windows Server 2008's Hyper-V technology and the current Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 products; we get an overview of Surgient's Virtual Labs software delivery process, of Digiturk's implementation of Virtual Machine Manager, and of Voca's implementation of SoftGrid application virtualization to multiple sites; finally, there is a section on Microsoft's virtualization resources, including a beta of Microsoft Application Virtualization (4.5) publicly available from Microsoft Connect, and a link to Tony Iams' webcast "Virtualization: Making the Move" (This webcast requires registration with InfoWorld Webcasts. The original webcast was broadcast on 24-Oct-2007).

Tony Iams, a VP and Senior Analyst with Ideas International, Inc., has a Camtasia Studio screencast presentation about their company's Virtualization Analysis Suite which any mid-sized to enterprise IT shop considering virtualization should review.

If you're thinking at all about virtualization, I highly recommend signing up for this free newsletter and using it as your jump-off point and monthly reminder to keep your finger on the pulse of the virtualization industry.