/2020chronicle

Archive for 2020

COVID-19 Panic Check

Time for another panic check. The media is producing comparison charts to make COVID-19 look worse than other historic outbreaks. They NEVER include N1H1 which started right here in the USA.

“The CDC estimated that from April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, there were 60.8 million H1N1 cases, with 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. alone. They also estimate that worldwide, 151,700 to 575,400 people died from (H1N1)pdm09 during the first year. Unusually, about 80% of the deaths were in people younger than 65 years of age”.
“Although it is not unusual in pandemics, over time, the fatality rate of COVID-19 has steadily decreased. For example, according to the China CDC study, in patients whose symptoms began between January 1, 2020 and January 10, 2020, the fatality rate was an astonishing 15.6%. But in the patients who didn’t report illness until February 1 to February 11, in China, it was 0.8%”.

“It’s worth noting that even after China got the death rate down to 0.7%, or even 0.4%, that’s still about four to seven times greater than the death rate for seasonal flu. (The rate for the flu is about 0.1%—or 1 in 1,000 patients.)”
It’s even lower than .4% in the US right now. Young, healthy people are not gonna die despite the number of empty cots in gyms published by the media. And toilet paper still isn’t going to save anyone with preexisting conditions indicating they could. Learn lessons from old people in Italy who run around kissing each other on the face while living 5-6 deep per apartment. Yeah, don’t do that.

https://www.biospace.com/article/2009-h1n1-pandemic-versus-the-2020-coronavirus-pandemic/

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FACT: N1H1 > COVID-19

From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, there were 60.8 million H1N1 cases, with 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. alone. It’s estimated that worldwide, 151,700 to 575,400 people died from (H1N1)pdm09 during the first year. Unusually, about 80% of the deaths were in people younger than 65 years of age. COVID-19 is no where near these numbers while adversely effecting an inverse demographic.

I know everyone needs to justify the excess toilet paper, stocked basements and Amazon prepper kits but straight fact is Coronavirus is not as nasty as the outbreak that came before it. Do you recall all the closures and panic in 2010?

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Crazies and a Blue Devil

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Duke!

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Checkpoint SmartConsole just Sucks. 80.10 80.20

I’ve been deploying and managing corporate firewalls for over 27 years. Over the past two years this included an assortment of Cisco ASA (Firepower), Sophos and Checkpoint appliances. I can say without hesitation that Checkpoint SmartConsole is the absolute worst firewall management interface I’ve ever experienced. And Checkpoint wants a ransom to expand the number of appliances it can manage and deploy policies on.

I was told by our local NC Checkpoint rep that anyone who questions Checkpoint’s pricing will be shut down by their top brass in Israel because they’re ultra arrogant with regards to their perceived value. Apparently anyone who questions their pricing is just stupid and unqualified to judge. I’m qualified. Checkpoint SmartConsole is shit. Complete shit.

The catch is that I like the smaller Checkpoint, locally managed units and their interfaces are not too bad. The Checkpoint 3200 sold to us by RMSource in Raleigh, NC wasn’t up to the job. They didn’t bother to mention the need for Checkpoint’s “Management Console” licensing and put the management directly on the 3200. Later I’m told by Checkpoint that in order to deploy the licensed “Management Console” to push policy to multiple devices local management would have to be removed from the 3200 and it would have to be reconfigured or re-imaged from a backup. Never mind they were told this is our 24-7 core production firewall and they only get one shot at this. Vendor fail. They were fired. We never bought the Checkpoint Management Console. Not enough units to justify the price.

There are so many problems with “Smart”Console I don’t even know where to start. Let’s begin with the inability to make any changes in any security policy or the unit’s configuration without “Installing” the new policy on the 3200. This disconnects every VPN tunnel, every time. Interrupts active sessions. That’s just ridiculous bullshit. Perhaps this can be avoided with the fully licensed management console running on a VM? I don’t care. I’m not paying for it and any other firewall I’ve ever administered can have local configuration and security policies adjusted on the fly without interrupting any active sessions assuming the configuration of the ports, VPN or settings for any connection have not changed. Even the smaller Checkpoint units can do this. Not so with the 3200 and SmartConsole. It mole whacks every session, every time.

Want to see which specific VPN tunnels are connected and active? You’re not going to easily in SmartConsole which requires a few steps to launch Smartview and then run a Tunnel View… blah, blah…. fuck this. Why can’t I just click “Monitor”, “VPN tunnels” like every other security appliance on earth and see a list of gateway and remote access tunnels and their connection status? Aside from intentional complication, which it seems Chekpoint has mastered, I can’t think of a single reason they can’t make this as simple in Smart Console as it is on their other appliances.

There’s so much more to hate about SmartConsole. It can’t be upgraded in place, previous versions have to be removed before the latest release can be installed. It’s 2020. Fix your shit. The Gaia OS is as bad as it’s name and still a resource hog. What the hell is a Gaia anyway? Never mind, I don’t care. Or how about the fact that I still have updates pending on this damn 3200 that neither the Checkpoint vendor, RMSource, or Checkpoint support could ever get installed without errors? Again, they want to rip it down an start from scratch. What is it these people don’t understand about 24-7 up time meaning NO MAINTENANCE WINDOW for core key components? We don’t have hours to re-image or reconfigure our primary firewall. We will spend thousands to hot-swap replace this ill-advised 3200 before losing even one hour of production orders that flow through the thing. And guess what Checkpoint, we are.

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The technical challenge of putting Boomers in charge.

I’ll start by acknowledging this is going to be one of the most contentious posts I’ll never privatize. We have a new age problem, which is an old age problem. It’s not specifically the age of Boomers creating this problem, it’s their lack of abilities with modern technology.

Regarding the recent technical issues surrounding the Iowa caucus vote totals Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica reported,

“From a malfunctioning smartphone app to a barely staffed IT help desk and a key party official not knowing how to use a Google spreadsheet, plenty of problems turned the process of calculating and reporting caucus results into a laughingstock”.

This is not trivial, we are entering a period of consequences.

The implied and often vocal retort to any accusation of limited technical skillset or knowledge gaps found among most Boomers is they don’t need to understand. There was even a prevailing 2014 argument that Boomers do understand, they just don’t want to let the rest of us know because then we won’t do [digital tasks] for them. Truth is many Boomers harbor a belief their accrued common sense and speculative knowledge will allow them to adapt to technical challenges as necessary. This is not true as most technology does not allow for any theoretical, hypothetical or out of context use without error. Meanwhile often the simplest instructions offered to the 65 and over set go ignored because of lack of interpretation, purveyed as supposed over complication. Complicated, in this context, is usually synonymous with misunderstood.

We are in transitional times where most of Generation X and later now accept digital technology, social media, password management, online banking and other technologies as routine in life. Meanwhile we are handing electronic devices, legislative decisions and even adjudication responsibilities to the last generation to insist on writing checks at the cash register. What could go wrong?

The Iowa caucuses are what can go wrong. Do we really need the tallying of vote totals disrupted because someone doesn’t know how to run Excel? In Iowa over 94% of poll workers were over 65 years old. Do we need to hand barely tested mobile apps to people bused in from the local Senior center who’ve volunteered to run the polls? No, we don’t. As long as the oldest generations among us are the ones trusted with organizing our voting places how about we leave the technology on their level? Gen X can handle the smart phone tallies in a decade or two when we’re bored on Tuesdays and looking to fulfill our civic duty.

In our present digital, generational transition looms a larger problem: security. It was just released that the Department of Justice is charging Chinese state actors for breaching Equifax in 2017. Our legislators don’t know how to respond. They don’t know what steps to take because even when empowered by those considered top technology consultants in the sphere of government service they don’t understand. Worse there’s very little admission of their misunderstanding. Only answers implying that they know more than we think. They don’t. Find me just two Boomer legislators who know what an X12 document translation set refers to. Many would claim they don’t need to know, implying their transcendental knowledge is all that’s required to understand conceptually in order to render their opinion or verdict. It will not.

In time younger legislators and lawmakers will rise in numbers until eventually we have a moderate number of decision makers who understand and most importantly accept fast changing technology as part of our daily lives. Acceptance is a key factor in this adjustment because not only have many of our wise, aged legislators and judiciary not learned the true depth of technology used in our businesses and lives, they haven’t even accepted it as the new normal. Therefore many insist they are too busy to be bothered with cumbersome, unnecessary technical details. They aren’t. It’s 2020. Understanding technical details matters.

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Home Depot B2B EDI “support” is a model of Asian outsourcing failure.

Home Depot outsourced it’s B2B and EDI (Electronic Document Interchange) support to India, Pakistan or somewhere in Asia long ago.  It’s a model demonstration of the failures that can come from outsourcing.  The long running jokes about Indian call center support embraced by US technology and telecommuncations companies have spread across almost all areas of I.T.   This particular failure on the part of Home Depot is of particular importance because it causes disruption in their vendor supply chain.

Honorable mention goes to Home Depot for their selection of unqualified candidates to work in their B2B support center.  Not only are they generally unhelpful and unknowledgeable regarding things like their own EDI mapping specifications, but Home Depot has found it acceptable to hire those who ONLY speak Farci or Urdu with almost zero ability to speak English.  This is no exaggeration or matter of interpretation.  My guess is the top of the totem pole in Atlanta probably isn’t even aware how bad the situation is with this language barrier.  I challenge anyone in their stateside senior management to call their own B2B support department and hold a conversation.  Our organization has been required to call in our Indian and Pakistani product managers to sit on calls and speak with the HD B2B support staff in their native language because they genuinely did not know the words in the English language to communicate high level technical information to our internal EDI staff or our application vendors.  This is when you know they’ve gone too far in their quest to offset costs.

Predictably Home Depot could play the “we can’t find U.S., Canadian or European workers with the skill set to fill these roles”.  Well, you didn’t find them in India or Pakistan either.  Furthermore the document specifications and translation sets are written in English code, specifically XML. If they can’t speak it my guess is they couldn’t read a map or the specification sets during training either.

We are at a point of impasse in our organization right now when it comes to turning up a new trading partnership for Home Depot Canadian distribution centers even though we have a signed supplier agreement because we literally can’t find anyone in Home Depot B2B who can communicate with us in English.  Furthermore when we engage our language translators they still can’t grasp technical concepts well enough to even provide us proper document specifications for their domestic and international programs.  This is why Home Depot’s long running B2B outsourcing initiative deserves a resounding FAIL.

Home Depot has millions of dollars to fix this problem and insure faster supply chain integration.  Apparently the decision not to fix the problem is completely based on trying not to pay U.S., Canadian or European technical specialists the wages such B2B and EDI expertise demands, opting instead for cheap, unqualified, outsourced Asian call center operatives who are at best ineffective in their roles and in many cases detrimental to vendor supply chain integration.

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