IT Managed Services Provider Resource Recommendation Updated on 20 Aug 2020

The headline on 20 Aug 2020

What does Microcontroller mean?
A microcontroller is a self-contained integrated circuit (IC) that is designed to carry out a single operation in an embedded system. At its simplest, a microcontroller is composed of a processor, memory and input/output (I/O) peripheral ports on a single chip.

Although microcontrollers can’t perform the same functions as standard processors, their low cost and minimal power usage make them a cost-effective option for adding computer-like capabilities to just about anything. Today, microcontrollers can be found in a wide variety of remote-controlled devices in the consumer market space. They also play an important role in the expanding Internet of Things (IoT), helping to govern “things” at the network’s edge, such as printers, kitchen appliances, televisions, home lighting systems and automobiles.

The terms microcontrollers and microprocessors are often confused. Here’s a simple way to remember the difference — if a chip has a central processing unit (CPU) but has to connect to memory and I/O ports externally, it’s called a microprocessor. If the same chip has memory, storage and programmable I/O peripheral ports built-in, it is called a microcontroller.

The headline on 19 Aug 2020

What does Self-Replicating Machine mean?
Self-replicating machines are a category of an autonomous robot that can make copies or reproduce themselves autonomously with the help of raw materials from the existing environment. The self-replicating machine is based on the concept of self-replication as found in nature. Further development of the self-replicating machine concept is considered a critical part of any plans, like the mining of asteroid belts and moons for minerals and ores.

IT Landscape for sysadmins is a visually organized roadmap to a large set of fantastic resources that can make your life easier.

Destination Linux is a podcast for those interested in Linux and open source. In each weekly episode, Ryan, Michael and Noah discuss what’s going on in the world of Linux and host in-depth interviews with experts. Appropriate for all experience levels.

Dnsmasq provides DNS, DHCP, router advertisement and network boot for small networks. This lightweight tool has a small footprint, so it’s suitable for resource-constrained routers and firewalls. Can help tether on smartphones and portable hotspots, and to support virtual networking in virtualization frameworks. Supports Linux (with glibc and uclibc), Android, *BSD and Mac OS X.

Conferfly is a conference room tool that lets you join calls on Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and more from your conference room with a single click. Full integration with GSuite and O365 room calendars, with auto-update, plus customizable rooms, security features and quick setup.

A Powershell shortcut “CTRL+ Space after the hyphen has been the best Powershell tip ever.… It displays all the nouns and parameters in one glance as opposed to tabbing through them.”

What does Data Lake mean?
A data lake is a storage repository that holds a vast amount of raw data in its native format until it is needed.

While a hierarchical data warehouse stores data in files or folders, a data lake uses a flat architecture to store data. Each data element in a lake is assigned a unique identifier and tagged with a set of extended metadata tags.

When a business question arises, the data lake can be queried for relevant data, and that smaller set of data (the metadata tags) can then be analyzed to help answer the question.

The headline on 18 Aug 2020

What does Paravirtualization mean?
Paravirtualization is a virtualization technique that provides an interface to virtual machines that are similar to their underlying hardware. In paravirtualization, the guest operating system is explicitly ported before installing a virtual machine because a non-tailored guest operating system cannot run on top of a virtual machine monitor (VMM).

Paravirtualization enables several different operating systems to run on one set of hardware by effectively using resources such as processors and memory. In paravirtualization, the operating system is modified to work with a virtual machine. The intention behind the modification of the operating system is to minimize the execution time required in performing the operations that are otherwise difficult to run in a virtual environment.

Paravirtualization has many significant performance advantages and its efficiencies offer better scaling. As a result, it is used in various areas of technology such as:

  • Partitioning development environments from test systems
  • Disaster recovery
  • Migrating data from one system to another
  • Capacity management

Paravirtualization technology was introduced by IBM and was developed as an open-source software project.

What does Virtual Disaster Recovery mean?
Virtual disaster recovery is a combination of storage and server virtualization that helps to create more effective means of disaster recovery and backup. It is now popular in many enterprise systems because of the many ways that it helps to mitigate risk.

The general idea of virtual disaster recovery is that combining server and storage virtualization allows companies to store backups in places that are not tied to their physical location. This protects data and systems from fires, floods and other types of natural disasters, as well as other emergencies. Many vendor systems feature redundant design with availability zones so that if data in one zone is compromised, another zone can keep backups alive.

What does Spear Phishing mean?
Spear phishing is an email spoofing attack that targets a specific organization or individual, seeking unauthorized access to sensitive information. Spear phishing attempts are not typically initiated by random hackers but are more likely to be conducted by perpetrators out for financial gain, trade secrets or military information.

As with emails used in regular phishing attacks, spear phishing messages appear to come from a trusted source. Phishing messages usually appear to come from a large and well-known company or website with a broad membership base, such as Google or PayPal. In the case of spear phishing, however, the apparent source of the email is likely to be an individual within the recipient’s own company — generally, someone in a position of authority — or from someone the target knows personally.

Question: What type of security attack vector is often successful because people want to be helpful?
Answer: Social engineering.

Question: What word used to describe spyware, adware, viruses and Trojan horses is a portmanteau composed of the words “malicious” and “software?”
Answer: Malware.

Question: When an email header has been forged so the message appears to have originated from somewhere other than the actual source, has the header been bugged or spoofed?
Answer: Email spoofing

Question: What do you call a spear-phishing attack that only targets high-level, senior executives within a specific organization?
Answer: Whaling

Question: What type of security exploit seeks to compromise a specific group of end-users by infecting websites those people are known to visit?
Answer: Watering hole attack.

The headline on 14 Aug 2020

What does Virtual Dedicated Server (VDS) mean?
A virtual dedicated server (VDS) is an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud offering that allows users to provide an isolated server over the internet. It provides functionality and resources similar to an in-house server but is managed on a rental basis by a cloud service provider.

A VDS provides small to full-scale server instances, depending on the provider’s resource requirements and capabilities.

As one of the most popular cloud service offerings, a VDS provides users with the ability to lease a managed but dedicated server to develop, deploy and host web applications. Once provisioned to a client, a VDS is not shared with other customers and, thus, does not offer multi-tenancy.

A VDS is a composite of complete server hardware, along with the operating system (OS), which is powered by a remote access layer that allows end-users to globally access their server via the Internet.

Although a VDS is similar to a virtual private server (VPS), there are slight differences. A VDS provides a remote dedicated server, while a VPS is a virtual machine (VM) on top of a physical server that hosts VPS instances and shares host machine resources.

What does the Inbox Zero mean?
Inbox Zero is a rigorous approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty — or almost empty — at all times.

Inbox Zero was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann. According to Mann, the zero is not a reference to the number of messages in an inbox; it is “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.” Mann’s point is that time and attention are finite and when an inbox is confused with a “to do” list, productivity suffers.

Mann identifies five possible actions to take for each message: delete, delegate, respond, defer and do.

Here are some of Mann’s tips for effective email management:

  • Don’t leave the email client open.
  • Process email periodically throughout the day, perhaps at the top of each hour.
  • First, delete or archive as many new messages as possible.
  • Then forward what can be best answered by someone else.
  • Immediately respond to any new messages that can be answered in two minutes or less.
  • Move new messages that require more than two minutes to answer — and messages that can be answered later — to a separate “requires response” folder.
  • Set aside time each day to respond to email in the “requires response” folder or chip away at mail in this folder throughout the day.

Merlin Mann, a well-known productivity guru and creator of the popular 43 folders website will talk about Getting Things Done, the importance of getting your inbox to zero, and strategies for dealing with high volume email. Merlin Mann introduces the inbox zero approach in a Google Tech Talk:

Question: What is the name of the proprietary client used to access email on a Microsoft Exchange Server?
Answer: Outlook.

Question: What type of program is used to detect unsolicited email and prevent it from getting to a user’s inbox?
Answer: Spam filter.

Question: What term did the founder of Creative Commons popularize when he announced in 2004 that he was unable to respond to email correspondence because his inbox had become unmanageable?
Answer: Email bankruptcy.

Question: What Microsoft application looks for patterns in emails, meetings, calls and chats to help employees gain insight into how they spend their time at work?
Answer: MyAnalytics.

Question: When you store the data from an email message to meet compliance obligations, are you archiving the email message or backing it up?
Answer: Email archiving.

What does the VRWeb mean?
VRWeb is a browser program that supports three-dimensional objects created in Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). VRWeb supports the visual modelling of VRML worlds, or files containing the data to visually simulate a three-dimensional object on a computer or device screen.

Before the emergence of the X3D ISO standard for three-dimensional representation of graphics, VRML was considered the standard format for three-dimensional modelling. The file format for VRML supports various aspects of a three-dimensional image, such as texture, transparency and the application of colour to three-dimensional surfaces. Sound, animation and other capabilities are also accommodated by this file format.

The use of VRML is somewhat rare on the Internet, but the development of technologies like VRWeb make these kinds of graphical modelling a more likely part of future Web technologies and presentations. These kinds of presentations can be extremely useful in the sciences, for example, where a three-dimensional representation can show viewers much more about anatomy systems, chemistry or microbial organization.

What does the Value Stream Mapping mean?
Question: What type of chart is commonly used to provide stakeholders with a visual reference point for identifying value and eliminating waste?
Answer: Flowchart

Question: What popular production methodology, inspired by the Toyota Production System, introduced value stream mapping to Agile software programmers?
Answer: Lean production

Question: What synonym for continuous improvement proposes the idea that small, ongoing positive changes can create value and reap significant improvements?
Answer: Kaizen

Question: What word is commonly used in project management as a synonym for a bottleneck that introduces downstream waste?
Answer: Constraint

Question: What management framework is based on the belief that an organization can build long-term success by having all its members focus on improving quality and delivering customer satisfaction?
Answer: Total Quality Management (TQM)

The headline on 13 Aug 2020

What does Reputation Management mean?
Question: What type of business model seeks payment in return for managing community perception of an individual or organization?
Answer: Public relations

Question: What synonym for “turn around quickly” could be used to describe an interview that seeks to present the subject of the story in the best possible light?
Answer: Spin

Question: What are you doing if you continually monitor Twitter, Facebook, Glassdoor and LinkedIn to learn what is being said about the company you work for?
Answer: Social media listening

Question: What type of formal assessment seeks to identify hazards that could negatively impact an organization’s ability to conduct business?
Answer: Risk assessment

Question: What IT market segment provides products and services that a company uses to manage customer interactions through the lifecycle?
Answer: Customer experience management

The headline on 12 Aug 2020

What does the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) mean?
Interactive voice response (IVR) is a technology that allows humans to interact with computers using voice or a dual-tone multifrequency (DTMF) signalling keypad. IVR allows customers to find answers to their inquiries by speaking (using the company’s speech recognition software) or giving inputs via a telephone keypad.

IVR uses prerecorded and dynamically generated audio to interact with customers. The key benefit to IVR systems is that they can handle large volumes of calls, where only simple interactions are required.

IVR is also known as a telephone menu or voice response unit.

At the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Bell System introduced the first telephone capable of dialling area codes using dual-tone modulation frequency with dial tones in the range of human hearing. This was the genesis of IVR. However, IVR technology was complex and expensive through the 1970s.

In the 1980s, more companies entered the market. Competition led to further development of speech recognition software, causing the move from digital signal processors to a client/server architecture. Companies began researching computer telephony integration for use with IVR systems. Intelligent routing of calls to appropriate company personnel or departments became common and vital for efficient business answering operations. In the 2000s, speech recognition software was further developed and eventually became less expensive. This was made possible by faster processing speeds and the transfer of speech recognition proprietary programming code to the VXML standard.

IVR prioritizes customer calls coming into a call centre, moving some to the front of the queue. Prioritization is based on the reason for the call and a dialled number identification service. The system can also log caller detail information and collect it in a database for auditing, system performance analysis and future system improvements.

Other typical uses for IVR are:

  • Voice-activated dialling to automate routine inquiries to switchboards or private automatic branch exchange operators
  • Entertainment and information to handle television game shows or televoting, which can generate huge call volumes
  • Anonymous access to sensitive data from hospitals and clinics using passcodes
  • Mobile purchases and registrations
  • Obtaining personal banking data
  • Taking orders and credit card payments
  • Reporting utility meter readings
  • Confirming airline flight information
  • Chat and dating lines
  • Weather and road conditions

IVR technology has its critics. Callers may object to providing voice responses to automated systems and prefer to talk to a human respondent. Customers may feel frustrated when their ability to talk to a human is restricted.

Consul Open Source allows you to discover services and securely manage connections between them across cloud, on-premise and hybrid environments. Discover, automate, secure and connect applications and networking configurations across distributed infrastructure and clouds. The open-source version provides core service discovery, service mesh and service configuration.

The Missing Semester of Your CS Education is designed to teach something that is often skipped over in class: proficiency with tools. It focuses on mastering the command-line, a powerful text editor, some fancy features of version control systems and more.

SmarTTY is a multi-tabbed SSH client to help manage and transfer files and folders between local and remote machines. This Windows application supports copying files and directories with SCP on-the-fly and editing files in-place. New Smart Terminal provides auto-completion, file panel, package management GUI and more.

Clusto is a python-based server cluster management tool that helps track inventory, telling you where everything is and how it’s connected. Information is provided via an abstracted interface that allows you to interact with elements of your infrastructure. Data can be stored in any database you can interact with via SQLAlchemy.

Today’s Word of the Day: Patch Tuesday
Question: What do you call a coding error in a computer program that causes the program to behave in an unintended way?
Answer: Bug

Question: What do you call the code a vendor sends out to resolve a functionality issue or improve security?
Answer: Patch

Question: What type of programming fix is sent out at a time other than the vendor’s regularly scheduled release time?
Answer: Out-of-band patch

Question: A CVE is a catalogue of known mistakes in software code that could provide an attacker with direct access to a system or network. What does CVE stand for?
Answer: Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures

Question: What do you call a programming flaw in software that is so new, it hasn’t been catalogued yet?
Answer: Zero-day vulnerability

What does Room-Scale VR mean?
In virtual reality, room-scale VR is the idea of connecting a physical room or space to a virtual reality world. It is part of the emerging virtual reality industry, and it is a component of how VR is innovating to provide more compelling virtual reality experiences for users.

Resources for room-scale VR include software that matches a dedicated room or space to a virtual world, as well as some type of tactile equipment or products that regulate the user’s motion through the room-scaled space. In general, room scaling helps to create more sophistication around VR platforms.

For example, a team of engineers might take a room of specific proportions (i.e., 10×20’) and think about how to “map” a virtual space inside it, to make the virtual world “fit” — of course, although everything is digitized in code, the program can benefit from synchronicity with the dimensions of the space that it rests in. Checking acoustics or light sealing might be a part of a room scaling approach.

In general, it is matching the functionality of a VR program to a physical space that supports it.

The headline on 11 Aug 2020

What does Reality Distortion Field (RDF) mean?
A reality distortion field (RDF) is a phenomenon in which an individual’s intellectual abilities, persuasion skills and persistence make other people believe in the possibility of achieving very difficult tasks. The term was coined by Apple employee Bud Tribble to describe former Apple Inc. co-founder, CEO and chairman Steve Jobs’ ability to encourage his team to complete virtually any assigned or delegated task.

There are two sides to the reality distortion field. The positive is that it demonstrates how Steve Jobs bent reality in such a way that a difficult or impossible task was made to appear possible, or even easy. The primary objective of this technique was to inspire employees and motivate them to tackle challenging situations in pursuit of an objective or goal. Although all good managers aim to inspire their teams in some regard, RDF implies Jobs’ legendary charisma, which many believe helped Apple achieve results that otherwise would not have been possible. In this way, his distortion field was a huge leadership attribute.

The flip side is that the distortion field was Steve Jobs’ darker side. Many considered him so driven that he would lie, pester, cheat or do whatever it took to succeed. In this light, a cynic would point to RDF as Jobs’ ability to manipulate people to do what he wanted.

With the passing of Steve Jobs, the term is sometimes used in a generic sense beyond just the context of Jobs himself.

Today’s Word of the Day: AI washing

Question: What type of AI programming allows a software application to become more accurate at predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed to do so?
Answer: Machine learning

Question: What do you call the set of instructions by which an AI system predicts output values from given input data?
Answer: Machine learning algorithm

Question: What type of AI is provided with both labelled input data and the expected output results to identify patterns that can be used to make future predictions?
Answer: Supervised learning

Question: What type of AI programming replicates human intelligence to carry out a specific type of task?
Answer: Narrow AI

Question: What synonym for artificial intelligence emphasizes the idea that AI should enhance human intelligence rather than replace it?
Answer: Augmented intelligence

Published by Thomas Apel

, a dynamic and self-motivated information technology architect, with a thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to system and network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. I enjoy the technical writing process and answering readers' comments included.