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Technology

Will the netbook save the desktop?

There has been a migration in recent years from the desktop as primary computer to the laptop. As the cost of the laptop relative to its performance specs decreased, more and more people were finding that the benefits of mobility and a small form factor justified moving to a laptop.

Enter the netbook. These are basically laptops that have been shrunk down to half the size. The result has been increased mobility thanks to reduced weight and better power usage. The netbook is a recognition that users need primarily internet access to accomplish most daily tasks. But for most computer users, a netbook isn’t enough to do everything they need to do.

Re-enter the desktop. The limited mobility of a desktop would be complemented by the hyper mobility of a netbook and take the place where a single computer (a laptop) used to exist for some users. Take the netbook with you when you need to go, have the desktop waiting for you when you get back.

I think the possibility exists that we will have a segment of consumers that use the netbook+desktop setup. This could be the redemption of the desktop format, which has been in decline for the past few years at least. What do you think?

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Technology

News the new way

Last night, protests that have been taking place in Toronto for the past few weeks at Queen’s Park and the US Consulate spilled onto the Gardiner Expressway, the elevated freeway that runs through downtown.

It was this event that brought home to me on a personal level the way the world is changing when it comes to how news is disseminated, and the role Twitter is playing in ushering in this new era.

Tamil protest on the GardinerMy condo looks over the freeway and I was able to watch the protests from above as they progressed through the evening. It started around 6:30pm and lasted until nearly midnight, when the last of the diehards finally called it a day.

When I wasn’t taking pictures of the crowd below, I was glued to my Twitter client of choice (for this week anyway), DestroyTwitter, reading the updates coming in from people watching the action from different vantage points.

All you needed to do follow the trend was search for #tamil or #tamilprotest. People weren’t just commenting on how crazy it all looked from above, but were also posting links to background information about the protests and the reason for them.

The most valuable aspect to me of this new way to experience current events is the connection I felt to everyone else in the city inconvenienced by the shutdown of the busy thoroughfare. There are a variety of points of view on the intelligence of the tactic itself, and everyone is sharing theirs via Twitter. It’s just such an incredible tool to connect people.

Follow my updates @neilmcintyre and connect with me!

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Technology

How Bruce Schneier secures his laptop

On the heels of this recent story out of the UK about the government losing 25 million citizens’ personal data, IT security guru Bruce Schneier provides his tips on securing your laptop, especially critical for those us with client data on our drives:

Longer keys increase the amount of work the defender has to do linearly, while geometrically increasing the amount of work the attacker has to do.

Strong passwords are the first step to protecting your firm’s and your clients’ information assets. Assigning a strong password using a combination of lower and uppercase letters, numbers and special characters is far more important than changing your password frequently. It has been my experience, however, that strong passwords just aren’t being enforced as well as they should be.

There are several whole-disk encryption products on the market. […] The reason you encrypt your entire disk, and not just key files, is so you don’t have to worry about swap files, temp files, hibernation files, erased files, browser cookies or whatever. You don’t need to enforce a complex policy about which files are important enough to be encrypted. And you have an easy answer to your boss or to the press if the computer is stolen: no problem; the laptop is encrypted.

I love the idea of simplying this process in the way described above. Making it easy for non-technical users to implement security measures makes it more likely they will get implemented effectively. And being able to tell your manager or the partner that the client data has not been compromised would help me sleep at night.

Bruce also mentions that the product he uses can encrypt USB drives, which are an essential tool for the modern auditor. I keep mine secure by wiping data from it immediately after transferring to the laptop, but that may not always be immediately possible.

Whole-disk encryption means that anyone at your computer has access to everything. […] I recommend a two-tier encryption strategy. Encrypt anything you don’t need access to regularly — archived documents, old e-mail, whatever — separately, with a different password.

This is a sound strategy for older files, although I prefer his final point:

Minimize the amount of data on your laptop. Do you really need 10 years of old e-mails [sic]? Does everyone in the company really need to carry around the entire customer database?

This is a better strategy for me as an auditor. The only files I need on my laptop is the client I’m working on at the moment. That audit that wrapped up last week? It’s on the network, where security isn’t my responsibility! As for email, I try to clear out old stuff annually to keep the hard drive usage up but also to remove potentially sensitive information.

Follow those simple tips and your portable client, employer and personal data will have a much greater chance of remaining out of the wrong hands.

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Technology

Preview Microsoft Office 2007 in the browser

As long as your browser is Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher, you can take the latest edition of Microsoft Office for a test drive without having to install a thing. Experience the bliss of the ribbon, the new UI metaphor that has already won my heart over. I loathe still having to do my work in Office 2003, which we still use at the firm. I can’t wait till we upgrade, but you don’t have to — test it now!

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Technology

IT audit training for me this week

This week I have a small reprieve from my duties as auditor, as I’m taking part in a training course put on by the firm at the Hilton. The training is related to the internal Information Systems specialization the firm offers, which will allow me to get more experience working with IS at clients and hopefully provide a jumping off point to the CISA designation next year.

I’m pretty excited about the opportunity, since training like this doesn’t come around too frequently. I had to pester a few key people at the office to get into the course, but it’ll be worth it. I think it will be perfect for someone with my interests and aptitude!

Not only that but the past couple weeks have been two of the busiest I’ll have all year. It’s no surprise then that blog post frequency has suffered as a result. But the end is in sight and things should ease up soon.