Teaching Trending Tech Topics since 1996!

Chris Pirillo is here to help his Gnomies learn with a daily podcast! To get full access to The LockerGnome Daily Report, you can quickly become one of the Super Gnomies! If you have a question, contact us!

Googlers Take On Company Day Care Costs

Is some of the magic at Google starting to fade? Is the company who’s motto is ‘Do No Evil’ starting to falter? You decide after reading this story. It seems that one of the perks of working at Google is the fact that day care is provided on Google’s property by trained staff. Cost for the pro care is a whopping $1,425 a month. But the price hit a not so ‘do no evil’ price of $2,500 a month.

I am sure we all agree that Google pays their people well. But $2,500 a month sounds just a little high to me.  The Google employees staged a min revolt over the increase and win a semi win in which the price will be tiered over a period of time but will still hit the high number down the road. In the story it states:

 Under the new plan, parents with two kids in Google day care would most likely see their annual day care bill grow to more than $57,000 from around $33,000.

At the first of the three focus groups, parents wept openly. As word leaked out about the company’s plan, the Google parents began to fight back. They came up with ideas to save money, used the company’s T.G.I.F. sessions — a weekly meeting for anyone who wanted to ask questions of Google’s top executives — to plead their case, and conducted surveys showing that most parents with children in Google day care would have to leave Google’s facilities and find less expensive child care.

Do you think you know how this story ends? You’re probably guessing that because it involves “do no evil” Google, Fortune magazine’s “Best Company to Work For” the past two years, this is a heart-warming tale of a good company reversing a dumb decision.

Also this:

“There are many things about Google that are not great, and merit improvement,” blogged Sergey Solyanik, who recently returned to Microsoft after a stint at Google. “There are plenty of silly politics, under performance, inefficiencies and ineffectiveness, and things that are plain stupid.” Starting, it would appear, with day care.

Excuse me. $57k for two kids? I know it’s the SF Bay Area but that sounds just a little high. The kids are not going to Stanford. It is day care. I think Google should really take a hard look at the pricing and come up with a pricing that is fair for the company and parents.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.


Skies of Cloud Computing Not So Bright

Bill Thompson, argues that the skies are becoming dark for cloud computing, and makes several assertions why this is so. In his article on BBC News, the point that rings truest to me is the possibility of the need of information and the impossibility of access due to any of a hundred different reasons.

Infrastructure overload is a major reason the system just might fail on a regular basis. All over the world, there are service providers fully in maximum whine mode,  warning that the pipes will not allow much more, yet it can be shown, in a majority of situations the same providers chose to reap extraordinary profits during the time when everyone was getting on the internet bandwagon, and refused to put the requisite amounts of money back into their businesses. This is one of the reasons that they all cry over the use of bit torrents – yet it is the fact that they refused to make the pipes bigger that brought bit torrent to the forefront of their problems.

The open source community is probably blameworthy as well. That won’t be a popular opinion, but it happens to be true. How much of the current traffic is generated by many people, trying to find something better, downloading the three latest distributions of Linux (DVD versions, of course) to see which best fits their needs. No one is trying to remove this use, but it does contribute to the traffic.

Spam is another large contributor. How nice it would be to not get 300 messages a day that are junk. The alternative is to use filtration, which then causes a possibility of losing that 1 important piece in 300. Being that we, as humans, are not as efficient as computers, we sometimes forget to check the spam folders before that 1 jewel gets hosed along with all the spam. Spammers count on that. They generate thousands of messages per hour, in hopes that perhaps 1 person per day will respond to the ‘special offer’ just waiting for them.

But I digress.

Mr. Thompson talks about distributed computing –

The approach is growing in popularity, and Google, Microsoft and Amazon are among the many large companies working on ways to attract users to their offerings, with Google Apps, Microsoft’s Live Mesh and Amazon S3 all signing up customers as they try to figure out what works and what can turn a profit.

The technical obstacles to making distributed systems work are formidable, and while books like Nick Carr’s The Big Switch talk optimistically about the potential for utility computing to be offered to homes and businesses just like electric power, building robust, reliable and scalable systems around these new models will tax our ingenuity.

It doesn’t sound like all the bugs have been worked out just yet.

As we become more reliant on the cloud any problems will become more severe, as we can see in the irritation that many users feel with Twitter at the moment because of constant outages, dropped messages and general flakiness as the company tries to cope with what was clearly an unanticipated growth in usage.

It would be a lot worse if your spreadsheets or presentations were inaccessible because of problems in the cloud, or rather because of problems with the physical computers or network connections that make cloud computing possible.

Because behind all the rhetoric and promotional guff the ‘cloud’ is no such thing: every piece of data is stored on a physical hard drive or in solid state memory, every instruction is processed by a physical computer and the every network interaction connects two locations in the real world.

It is often useful to conceptualise online activities as cyberspace, the place behind the screen, but the internet is firmly of the real world, and that is one of the greatest problems facing cloud computing today.

but there are many who don’t bother to think about the intricacies of the implementation – they simply want to use what’s provided, and let someone else worry. This is much of the problem today – with many things, there just aren’t enough worriers.

Next is the talk about the fact that, as much as we would like to think that we are a world becoming smaller, and borderless, through computing, it simply is not so.

In the real world national borders, commercial rivalries and political imperatives all come into play, turning the cloud into a miasma as heavy with menace as the fog over the Grimpen Mire that concealed the Hound of the Baskervilles in Arthur Conan Doyle’s story.

The issue was recently highlighted by reports that the Canadian government has a policy of not allowing public sector IT projects to use US-based hosting services because of concerns over data protection.

Under the US Patriot Act the FBI and other agencies can demand to see content stored on any computer, even if it being hosted on behalf of another sovereign state.

If your data hosting company gets a National Security Letter then not only do they have to hand over the information, they are forbidden from telling you or anyone else – apart from their lawyer – about it.

The Canadians are rather concerned about this, and rightly so. According to the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that helped the Internet Archive successfully challenge an NSL, more than 200,000 were issued between 2003 and 2006, and the chances are that Google, Microsoft and Amazon were on the recipient list.

Borders exist, wars happen, outages occur, and all of these things can cause you and your necessary data to become separated permanently. No one can guarantee it won’t happen, actually, at least on a small scale the reverse is probably true.

The push towards cloud computing may force us to be more realistic about the boundaries that have always existed. Perhaps it is time for the UN to consider a cyberspace rights treaty that will outline what it’s acceptable to do when other people’s data comes into your jurisdiction.

This could also be a problem, as we all know how the current crop of individuals in charge of the government don’t like ‘takin’ no orders from outsiders’.

full article

Technorati Tags:

Making Certain That a Delete Really Is Gone

There have been repeated warnings that, when a file is deleted, it really is not gone. The space that it once occupied is made available. With some care and expertise, a deleted file can be recovered – sometimes. This is good news if you have made a mistake and want that deleted file restored. The capacity to restore deleted files is bad news if sensitive information falls into the wrong hands.

There is way to make sure that a deleted file really is gone. Sure Delete essentially overwrites the space and makes the file irretrievable. It is gone after you use Sure Delete:

link: Sure Delete

This free program works for numerous operating systems, including XP. Vista is not listed. The usual disclaimers apply here in that you are responsible for having things in a back-up system. Just make sure that you truly want a file gone or free drive space totally erased. After Sure Delete, there is no way back, so please be careful.

Catherine Forsythe

Woman Dies on Hospital Waiting Room Floor

According to CNN, Esmin Green is a symbol of a health-care system that seems to have failed horribly. Esmin’s pastor from her church says she had been hospitalized with emotional problems in the past, and recently appeared to be in distress again. The pastor decided to call 911 to get her some help. Upon her admission, Green waited nearly 24 hours for treatment. Hospital surveillance cameras from four different angles show her fall out of her chair to the floor 5:32 a.m. She landed face-down on the floor, convulsing, and she stopped moving at 6:07 a.m. At 6:35 a.m., the tape shows a hospital employee approaching and nudging Green with her foot, the group said. Help was summoned three minutes later. In addition, hospital staff falsified Green’s records to cover up the time she had lain there without assistance. Contrary to what was recorded by the hospital’s video cameras, the patient’s medical records say that at 6 a.m., she got up and went to the bathroom, and at 6:20 a.m. she was ‘sitting quietly in waiting room’… more than 10 minutes since she last moved and 48 minutes after she fell to the floor.

I cannot even begin to describe how outraged I am over the ‘treatment’ of this woman. I watched the surveillance video, and I think my mouth literally hit the floor. You can see the security guard come in the waiting room twice, look right at the patient, and walk away without doing a thing. Did he think she was stuck amongst those chairs and lying on the floor for the fun of it? He couldn’t take 10 seconds to see if she needed help? I mean, it’s not like she was in a hospital waiting room or anything.

Ms. Green is from Jamaica, and left six children behind. She had been working and living here, attending church, and sending money home to her family. I have a feeling she didn’t have traditional health insurance. She likely had state-paid ‘insurance’, or none at all. Yep, you guessed it. I’m going on a rant.

You cannot sit there and tell me people in this same situation are not treated differently from those who have traditional health insurance. I know for a fact they are. When I was divorced, my daughters and I received medical ‘insurance’ from the state for a couple of years. The place I worked offered insurance, but had I paid for it, we wouldn’t have eaten. I was also going to college full time in order to obtain a better job where I could afford it. I’m not ashamed of being on state aid. We needed it, and that’s that.

While we were on this program, we of course visited various doctors, clinics and hospitals. We were treated with everything from snide comments to outright rudeness and disgust. We were looked upon as “lesser” than people who paid in cash, or presented their shiny ‘traditional’ insurance cards. Is it my fault that the state is so slow about paying? I actually had a nurse one time comment to me that it’s “pathetic to see able-bodied people taking handouts”. I smiled at her sweetly, and said “I’m glad to know you presume so much about my life. Would you like me to dissect yours?”. I was humiliated, but I sure as hell did not let her see that.

Would Ms. Green be dead right now if someone… ANYONE… at the hospital had paid attention to her? That’s impossible to answer, of course. But, the fact is, we’ll never know. She may have been able to be saved quite easily for all we know. It’s sad and infuriating that there is no answer to that question. It’s repungent to know that because of lazy people who don’t obviously give a damn about others or their jobs couldn’t be bothered to come to the aid of a woman who so obviously needed them.

Google Adds Privacy Link

Basically what Google is doing is posting their principles when it comes to your privacy. On their blog site they state:

So, today we’re making a homepage change by adding a link to our privacy overview and policies. Google values our users’ privacy first and foremost. Trust is the basis of everything we do, so we want you to be familiar and comfortable with the integrity and care we give your personal data. We added this link both to our homepage and to our results page to make it easier for you to find information about our privacy principles. The new “Privacy” link goes to our Privacy Center, which was revamped earlier this year to be more straightforward and approachable, with videos and a non-legalese overview to make sure you understand in basic terms what Google does, does not, will, and won’t, do in regard to your personal information.

What do you think? Are you feeling the Google love? Is your privacy well protected?

Comments welcome.


Medical Clearance for Andrew Bynum

This has been the news that the Lakers have waited to hear. Andrew Bynum, the young Lakers center, has been cleared by his doctors to start training again:

“…Bynum saw doctors in New York in the morning and was given the green light to start conditioning, his agent, David Lee, said.

Lee reported Bynum doesn’t have pain or swelling in the knee and doctors told him there was no need for follow-up visits. The 7-foot center will stay in the New York area for another two weeks to continue his rehabilitation then head to Atlanta…”

link: Doctors clear Lakers’ Bynum

It would be an understatement to say that there are enormous pressures on young Andrew Bynum. For Lakers fans, their resounding defeat in the 2008 NBA finals was a little more palatable with the knowledge that Andrew Bynum would be returning. His presence at center gives the Lakers more offense and a tougher defense. He is expected to score, rebound and take some of the defensive focus away from Kobe Bryant.

Much is expected from Andrew Bynum and that repaired knee. In turn, there is the matter of Andrew Bynum’s contract. It will fall in the vicinity of eighty million dollars ($80,000,000.00). The Lakers consider it a business investment that will reap millions in profits each year he is with the team. The Lakers and their fans expect Andrew Bynum and his surgically repaired knee to take them deep into the playoffs in 2009. For Andrew Bynum, the new NBA season has started with this ‘go-ahead’ from his doctors. Now that knee will be tested.

Catherine Forsythe

Eerie Product of Green Movement – Do-it-Yourself Funerals

An article in Newsweek brings this oddity, some people are taking the green movement to a point few of us might wish to go – at home funerals, without the aid of standard accoutrements like embalming.

James Green is dead. He’s lying on a classroom table—eyes closed, hands across his chest—while Donna Belk, who lectures on do-it-yourself funerals, explains how to wash a corpse at home. “In my experience, bodies leak a negligible amount of fluid, but you may want to put a plastic sheet down, just in case.” She turns to Green: “You don’t have to do any leaking.” The ersatz corpse cracks a smile and the dozen students in the room shout, “He’s alive! He’s alive!”

‘Bad joke’, declare many, and I’d be inclined to agree, but after some reflection it becomes clear that for thousands of years the funeral was a very private and simple thing. (no jokes about Polish funerals!)

The playacting is part of the annual conference of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a watchdog group for the death-care industry that advocates simple, personalized and environmentally sound alternatives to the typical American burial.

Americans spend between $11 billion and $15 billion on funerals each year, and four major corporations account for 11 percent of the 20,000 funeral homes in the United States, tending to cluster in individual communities. The “big four”—Services Corporation International, Stewart Enterprises, Carriage and Stonemor—own just a quarter of the funeral homes in Seattle, for example, but own 80 percent of the funeral homes in Yakima, a few hours east.

I knew I wasn’t wasting my time watching ‘6 Feet Under’ – the big guys really are trying to take over, in this line of work, as everywhere else.

The FCA members from across the country gathered in Seattle in last June to attend seminars on home funerals; “green burial,” including caskets made from recycled paper; and, most important, educating the public on how to navigate what many members consider a corrupt and ossified industry.

“The funeral corporations use predatory sales tactics and aggressive marketing to get people—who are in shock—to spend more than they can afford on services they don’t want or need,” says Joshua Slocum, executive director of the FCA.

The laws surrounding funerals, burials, cremations and anything else have been so regulated and organized that it is almost too expensive to die. Truly this is maddening, as I have read stories of people trying to keep up appearances of life for their long dead loved ones, as the money for a ‘proper funeral’ was not available.

The lobbyists for the death-care industry, Slocum claims, have pernicious influence over state legislatures. In 2006, he got a call from a Native American couple whose 3-year-old died in a hospital while they were visiting Salt Lake City. The parents wanted to take the body home to Idaho for a traditional funeral. Hospital staff refused, telling the parents that according to a Utah law passed that year, the death certificate could only be signed by a licensed funeral director, which would have meant that the body would likely have had to be given temporarily into the custody of a funeral home. Luckily, with the help of an alternative burial group, the couple was able to take custody of their child’s body, but the case indicates the power the traditional funeral industry can have, Slocum argues.

“I want people to be shocked,” Slocum says, “that in some states, the body belongs to the mortuary by state law. And once a funeral director has got a body in the door, it’s over. They’ll charge you from $1,200 to $4,000 for their ‘basic services’ fee. They’ve got possession of your dead and your wallet with the blessing of the state.”

So much for the idea of respecting final wishes, or the wishes of a parent. Why should it be so hard for rights, to which every person should be entitled – especially in the ‘land of the free, and home of the brave’ – to be asserted?

Between wanting to handle things in their own manner (part of religious freedom) and avoiding the extreme exploitation of the funerary establishment, it is no wonder that people are trying to be green about funerals. The ecology is getting a back seat on this one.

Newsweek article

Technorati Tags:


Google Street View Confronted with Privacy Issues

Google Street View is faced with privacy issues in Britain. It seems that the photographs, linked to locations, may contravene existing legislation:

“…The company has said it had begun to trial face blurring technology, using an algorithm that detects human faces in photographs.

But Privacy International says it has doubts about the technology.”

link: Google faces ‘Street View block’

The irony is that Britain has been labeled the “Surveillance Society”. In late April of 2007, it was reported that there were over four million surveillance cameras, “one for every fourteen people“. That number has increased with more government surveillance and private security monitoring. There is no tracking how these surveillance images are archived and/or used. It just seems that the focus on Google’s image captures for Street View is a belated privacy concern. The expectation of privacy in public places in Britain was obliterated long ago, when citizen were monitored and tracked in the name of security surveillance.

Catherine Forsythe

Let’s Not Forget the Importance of July 5th

Of course the Fourth of July is an important event, and  we should celebrate it, with boundless joy, but also, with reflection on what it took to gain the freedom we hold dear.

However, other days of the year have their entitlements too, and July 5 is one of them.

• Independence Day in Venezuela (1811) (oh, well. we missed on this one – Hugo Chavez makes this a moot point)

• Independence Day in Algeria (1962) and Cape Verde (1975) (better)

Saints Cyril and Methodius Day in the Czech Republic and Slovakia;  and Tynwald Day on the Isle of Man


• 1687 – Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton  was first published, describing his laws of motion and his law of universal gravitation. (think of what would not be possible today, if Sir Isaac had not been the genius he was…)

• 1946 – Named after Bikini Atoll, the site of the nuclear weapons test Operation Crossroads in the Marshall Islands, the modern bikini was introduced at a fashion show in Paris. (hallelujah, we hit a home run on this one!)

1950 – The Israeli Knesset enacted the Law of Return, granting Jews around the world the right to migrate to and settle in Israel and gain citizenship. (my Jewish friends celebrate this almost as much as the 4th)

2004 – Indonesia held its first direct presidential elections in its history; Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would later be elected president during the second round of the elections on September 20.

Not quite as important to the average American, but no less many important things occurred on this day.

Technorati Tags:

The Frugal Graphing Application: Gliffy

If you’ve ever found yourself needing to assemble a graph, floor plan, diagram, or any other visual element to your site, Gliffy might just be the answer you’re looking for. It is a free web-based application that allows you to easily assemble a visual aid without any of the fuss normally associated with productive applications. Best of all, it’s free to try.

You have the ability to make 5 graphs with their free account, with the chance to upgrade to unlimited private and public graphs for five dollars per month. That catch aside, it is a notable site worth taking a look at if you’re ever in the need to create a graph or other visual aid.

Link: http://gliffy.com