Your Employer Owns Your Phone

According to a story from NPR, Amanda Stanton’s phone (an iPhone) was completely wiped remotely (accidentally) by her employer, and without her consent or knowledge. This was done not to a phone given to her by her employer, but to her personal and private phone.

This kind of power can be abused quite easily, and is also prone to mistakes such as this one. What is an IT department to do?

A situation like this requires balancing the desire of a company to protect private conversations and to protect trade secrets and so on, against the right of an individual to have their privacy rights respected.

Making this worse is the fact that personal gadgets and corporate gadgets (and technology) are mixing together like never before: for example, people buy their own phones and use them at work, and people use corporate phones to make personal calls. This mixing of personal and professional is only going to grow.

On a personal level, protecting yourself from this sort of accident means not connecting your phone to Microsoft Exchange, which provides the ability to perform a remote data wipe. It might be possible to forward or otherwise use a “proxy” to handle the mail from Exchange before mail gets to you – possibly sanitizing the mail – but this is conjecture.

From a corporate standpoint, this ability is a lawsuit waiting to happen. There has already been a lawsuit – City of Ontario v. Quon – that went to the Supreme Court about the privacy of text messages. The court found that the text messages should receive the same privacy expectations as that of emails, which meant the city could use them against Quon in the case that was ongoing. The Electronic Frontier Foundation saw hopeful signs for workplace privacy in the future.

A Novel Method of Filing

When it comes time to organize files, the common wisdom (and good advice, too) is to put everything together in a file cabinet in alphabetical order. No matter the subject, put the files in alphabetical order by their title.

Then when you need a file, you can get it out of the file cabinet, and put it back when done. When you choose the file titles wisely (usually by picking the first thing which comes to mind as a topic), this works well.

However, I added another step in my system that seemed to work and work quite well. When you take out a file folder from the file cabinet, instead of putting it back, put it in the front of a small file drawer. Even though this goes against the recommendation to sort alphabetically, what happens is the smaller file drawer is then sorted by frequency of use. The most often used files will be toward the front of the drawer.

Then, from time to time, take the files out of the back of the drawer (that is, the oldest files and least used) and put them back into the file cabinet.

These added steps mean that your file drawer is automatically filled with the most often used files, and the file cabinet is much easier to weed out and is also less often used in favor of the file drawer (which is normally closer).

Try it and see if I’m right…

Attachmate Snaps Up Novell (and SUSE)

Attachemate announced that they would purchase Novell for US$2.2 billion. This is good news – or seems to be, at least.

Attachmate merged with WRQ in 2005. WRQ was the company behind the Reflection for X product, which is an X server for Windows. Despite all the free and commercial competition, I always thought Reflection for X was one of the best available servers for Windows – and full-featured too.

Reflection for X has continued on since the Attachmate/WRQ merger, and the product seems to be healthy and vibrant.

I would expect – and hope – that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) would continue and be invigorated with new life in the new corporation. We’ll see how this goes.

GNOME and Mono are also part of the transition, as I think I’ve said before. Being open source, they will likely continue if the original projects are hamstrung or crippled or shut down; however, my experiences with Attachmate suggest that there is a decent chance things will go well for the new SUSE and the new Novell.

Let’s hope so.

Update: GrokLaw has a fantastic article detailing all the legal maneuvers as well as a list of articles from elsewhere on the web. Turns out there is also two different shareholder lawsuits in progress: one from Kendall Law Group, and one from Brodsky & Smith. It also happens that the previously rejected Novell buyer, Elliot Management, will now be a shareholder in Attachmate as part of the deal.

This is interesting…

Trying a New Linux Distribution: Alpine

I recently wanted to find a Linux distribution that worked under low memory conditions – that is, a measly 256M of space. (I can remember folks complaining that the lastest version of Windows required 4M or better…. sigh).

I discovered Alpine Linux (derived from one of the LEAF projects, no less) and have been quite happy. The system is responsive and works well.

Alpine offers a live CD as well as a way to put Alpine on a hard drive. It works quite well on a hard drive. Alpine also works very well inside VirtualBox.

I was surprised to find out just how capable dnsmasq has become; it appears that you should be able to fully configure almost all the servers necessary for automatic installation by just using dnsmasq with the proper configuration. I’ll describe it in coming days.

Rediscovering Life

The other day I was walking and found myself in the local cemetery. This is not as morbid as it might sound; there are several things that one can learn from a visit to the local cemetery.

One thing is to look at the names and markers: think about what these people are missing – and the joy that comes from just being alive.

One can also practice calculating in your head by figuring how old the deceased are given the years of birth and death. If you keep this up, you’ll certainly find some who died young. One family I discovered had three children die over a period of a couple of decades.

You may also find that some markers are uncared for; do something for the deceased and clean them up!

After a walk among the deceased, you may find that life is much more vibrant!