DB 6 – Personal Systems/Information Management

Introduction

As previously stated, I am a firm believer of collective intelligence and a strong advocate for a participatory and democratic governance. The thrust of this discussion is to share systems, information design, file management and applications knowledge for the benefit of the group (This is where we learn from each other).  I continually learn from students and faculty and this should be a point of emphasis as you never know what you will find.  Note this is also in accord with the ACM Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics.  As an example, I told Prof Hurd that my 3 year old Android phone had (understandably) poor battery life.  He alerted me to the Google Android Open Task Manager App.  This app allows you to shut down background processes effectively lengthening the battery life to an astounding 3 days!  While I am in many ways an Apple advocate, they would never allow this access to the OS for security reasons thus an open solution can be beneficial.  As another example, I often find I need 2 displays when advising students but I am often mobile.  A colleague alerted me to AirDisplay which allows me to put my MacBook’s 2nd display up on my iPad.  I could go on and on but the point of this is to learn from everyone and my apps are business boring – :).

Information Design

I have spoken at length about proper communication (and I may have even returned your email) and naming of files and we will soon discuss naming files and content to facilitate search engine optimization (SEO) however file formats must also be considered from accessibility and business process integration standpoint. The supplemental materials in this course were all created using MS Office however I have just migrated to Office 2010. When I update these materials I necessarily saved them in Rich Text Format (RTF) for accessibility since not everyone has Office 2007 or 2010 (BTW I am an advocate for Open/Libre Office). I could have gone with PDF but I find PDFs to be network unfriendly due to their size ( I urge you to save a file in PDF and check the file size – this of course has an impact on download times and network congestion).  Also try the Foxit PDF application as it will run quicker than Adobe.

File Management

To introduce the topic, I truly hope that no one here is using Microsoft’s My Documents to store all of their data. Consider this scenario from a security standpoint – what if every house in the United States stored their valuables in the same easily identifiable location (i.e. every house as a cabinet labeled my valuables located just inside the front door on the right). This is essentially what Microsoft has done since if a thief is able to hack into your computer, it is obvious which directory should be copied first. The following is just my Windows use and will not get into my Mac use and various Ubuntu VMWare Fusion virtual machines however I tend to store everything on the Mac side and then use shared folders to access files from the VMs.

I store my data in three directories relating to content: HVCC Administration, HVCC Courses and my personal data (the exact naming of these directories will remain anonymous for security reasons). I backup my data to Network Attached Storage (NAS and please research this if you are unfamiliar) on an ad hoc basis. This means I do not use the NAS backup software since it is buggy. I have a recurring reminder in my Gmail Calendar thus I simply drag and drop the directories to my NAS prior to going to sleep at night.  Now having said this I acknowledge this is an antiquated system as cloud technologies render my practices obsolete however I am not about to pay for cloud storage as my storage requirements are too extensive.

Another thing I do for file management particularly to keep track of online orders and e-mails is that I create a directory for every year. In this directory I create subdirectories for every month but I also preface each month with a two digit ordering so that it displays correctly and consecutively in my file manager that lists items in alphabetical order (e.g. 01 Jan, 02 Feb, 03 March). I do similar things with files that I have to keep ordered.

Security

Well first I run VMs whenever possible.  In Windows I scan for spyware once a week with Spybot Search and Destroy and turn on its “Tea Timer” functionality that monitors my registry and notifies me when something tries to modify it.  This can be tiresome when installing software but it has also caught illicit attempts to modify my registry when I am out browsing.  I also set my virus software to update every hour to mitigate my susceptibility to zero-day attacks. I am relatively impressed with Microsoft’s new free Microsoft Security Essentials as it is far less intrusive to processing and resources when contrasted with McAfee and Norton.  AVG also has a very nice free anti-virus product.  Malewarebytes and superantispyware are also notable free anti-spyware applications.  Note that using VMs renders my system virtually impervious to malware as I can just blow away/delete the VM guest OS should something bad happen.  Let’s recall that a virtual machine essentially packages an OS host and all of its applications and data into a single file and this file can only be opened in the VM and therefore a sandbox.  Another interesting note about VMs.  When I went to the Mac and implemented VMWare Fusion I created a guest Win 7 instance and brought in everything from my Dell.  This took up ~300 GB of storage yet only 80 GB in the VMWare Win7 Instance.  Why – no file slack or wasted storage as the programs/data were not constrained by the Win 7 NTFS.

OS

First, I am now a Mac user and I am crash free for 2 1/2 years.  This is even more impressive when we consider that my VM Windows instances don’t crash either.

I have upgraded to Windows 7 and still have some mixed feelings on it although I also run Win 2000 Server and Linux as a Virtual Machines.  I upgraded since I have a quad-core 64 bit processor and I finally wanted to take advantage of it.  Unfortunately, Windows gets bloated over time and I continually have to go in and edit my start-up applications in MSConfig.  This can be found in start -> run and typing msconfig at the DOS command line.  Look at all the programs in startup and you may Google these processes to determine if they are necessary.  Removing the items that are not necessary and if you have never done this there are probably many will free up memory and make your system far more efficient (BTW – have you ever used the Windows DOS CL before this? ) I have both Win XP and Linux Ubuunto bootable USB drives and while I know better, I do not create restore points often enough.  BTW – I do prefer the Macs (Unix Kernel).  On the Mac I now run VMware fusion in lieu of parallels.  In lieu of MS Office I installed Open Office although Google Docs is an attractive option and even superior when it comes to real time collaboration.  Lastly, for wonderful applications of Dropbox see here: http://www.informationweek.com/news/cloud-computing/infrastructure/231902845?cid=nl_IW_weekend_2011-11-05_html

 BTW – you can now run Ubuunto Linux applications without a virtual machine under Windows with PortableUbuntuRemix.  This is particularly useful for running GParted allowing you to repartition on the fly.

Windows 7 does have some attractive management functionality as seen here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/enterprise/products/windows-7/features.aspx.  Of course it also has problems that can be cleaned up with the freeware FixWin.

Applications

I run MS Office 2010 on my Mac in a VMWare Fusion Win 7 host and MS Office 2007 in a VMWare Fusion Win XP host since the College uses them but again I am attracted to Open Office.  I have replaced my MS Outlook with Yahoo’s Zimbra Desktop Client after my Outlook failed critically but I tend to use Gmail.  Both Open Office and Zimbra are robust, do not crash,  run quicker and have a much smaller footprint  than MS Office.  I use Drupal for my Web Content management, and on the Windows side I use Nero, Power DVD, DVD Fab and Roxio Easy CD creator for optical media, Adobe products for images and documents (but open source Gimp is wonderful for images) and Sonar for my AV editing.  For browsing I use Firefox and several plug-ins that include the Google Toolbar and HTML Validator for accessibility testing however I am drawn to Google’s Chrome since it updates every 4 hours to mitigate the possibility of attacks.  For music, I use MP3 Gain to normalize my MP3’s and I use Archos devices (archos.com) as they are Linux devices and do not brutally reorganize your entire music collection without your permission .  On my Droid I use Meridian as this will play folders.  Anecdotally I download alot of live recordings from www.archive.org and iTunes completely reorganized and therefore corrupted my architecture (e.g. I will never use iTunes again due to its invasive nature).  I also use Sonar for my musical composition and production. Lastly, the most important item on my Droid is the voice recognition which is built into the Linux 2.6 Kernel (which is why it is so quick) and therefore works in all apps (it is OS functionality).  Contrast this to Apple that requires a 3rd party app and thus doesn’t work in every app.  When we consider that mobile devices are constrained in three areas: input, output and computing power – we see Google Android has taken care of the first dimension.  Holographic displays will solve the second and cloud computing solves the 3rd (as long as you have network connectivity).

Applications can pose security risks similar to OS vulnerabilities (e.g., Adobe, MS Applications, etc.).  While you can set Windows update keeping all of your apps up to date for both security and functionality can be challenging.  I use Ketarin to scan installed programs and find updates.

Now appropriately apply all of the above to your smartphone as very few people back up or secure their smartphones :).

I am not a gamer as I learned early in my academic career that it drains your time and resulted in poorer grades.  Having said that my wife has become a gamer and necessarily I hacked our Wii.  PC World just recently published this mechanism found here: find.pcworld.com/69912 and find.pcworld.com/69913.  After doing this you can check out downloadable apps at: find.pcworld.com/69914 or /69915, /69916.

DB Instructions

With this introduction I present the following discussion board questions (please note you may add extra material as you see fit).

What do you do to keep your information organized?

How often does everyone back up their data and how/where do you back it up?

How often do you defragment your hard drive?

What are your favorite applications and mobile apps? -Productivity (Composition, Spreadsheet, DBMS) -Games -Multimedia -Programming -Anything else – Is anyone using Open Office?

What anti-spyware are you using and why?  Are you using anything on your mobile device?

What Antivirus software are you using, does it affect your system’s performance and how often do you set it to update its signatures?

What do you do for mobile management and what cloud resources or applications are you using (e.g. iCloud, box.net, dropbox, gdrive resources, gmail, hotmail, citrix, google apps applications).

Please share with us anything that can benefit the group (recall I asked earlier what you do for password management).

For my additional input – my favorite application is Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software. This is the only thing that keeps me on track with 100+ emails a day. Voice Recognition software allows me to dictate a full page of text in under 8 minutes.  As a side note I am very impressed with the Droid’s voice recognition and its accuracy and efficiency is due to its inclusion in the Droid Linux 2.6 micro-kernel.

It is likely that this DB will require and drive people to research which is one of the points of this DB.  Minimally you should try to understand every term (not application) everyone uses.  Now imagine you are an IT manager trying to accommodate everyone’s diverse needs and expectations. 🙂

Other notable Apps contributed by CISS 100 students

Presentation: http://prezi.com/

Thanks all, this DB does not require an APA citation and I really look forward to reading this DB,

PS – take a look at my use of white space in this DB.  Many people do not use enough white space as electronic documents require more white space than traditional documents – think like a magazine editor.  This also may be applied to email.  Take a look back through your lengthy emails and see how well they were presented from an Information Design perspective.

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