A ridiculous article by Matt Burns complains that the start button for Windows 8.1 is not a start button (http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/26/windows-8-1s-start-button-isnt-a-start-button/). And then he goes on by saying that right-clicking on it shows a non-customizable admin menu.

Well, Matt, use Windows 8 and right click the start menu corner and: You get the same menu! Of course the Start Button is a start button, clicking on it opens the full screen start menu of Windows 8.1. It works better than the old Windows 7 start menu, it has:

Larger targets for your mouse to hit, so you can use it quicker.
Direct search (just start typing, same as in Windows 7 btw)
Grouped entries, but now even all of them visible at once.
Active tiles that give you info directly
A sortable all programs menu (you can sort by name, group, install date, frequency of use)

The only thing I see missing is the recent documents. Well get over it, and create a short cut to the explorer search and “PIN IT TO THE START MENU”.

TL;DR; TC & Matt Burns write stupid nonsense articles

Posted by: buzina | May 10, 2012

Service Catalog, Request Catalog and Whatnot


@CharlesTBetz, @IanClayton and the @ITSkeptic were just tweeting about the difference between the service catalog, requestable services and their instances. Since I would like to add some of my 2 cts to that and I am not satisfied to discuss complex data modeling issues using just 140 characters I decided to quickly write up this post.

For me there should be a strong separation between models or types and instances, even if a given instance of one type can be the model for another. For me the service catalog describes all services that are available to a customer, just as the skeptic says – these are not per se available to a user. Someone with money has to order them. If they order these, the services are instantiated as a service (level) agreement. I put the level in parentheses because right now that is not the focus of the discussion.

In addition to this, each service has a list of 0 to many request types. These are the things that a user (for which the organization has ordered the service) can request. So if a customer agrees to a service (level) agreement, the users associated with that customer (named Person in the image) may request the service1.

Each service level agreement (here identified by a ServiceInstance) also contains a list of these request types along with some more customer individual specifications like cost or service level2, called RequestTypeInstance. This is an entity that is both an instance and a model.

A user may then put up a service request (labled RequestInstance), which refers to all the RequestTypeInstances, so provides all the details needed for approving, executing and monitoring the request. Each request will contain multiple RequestTypes as in real life no one will put up with having an “Order” just containing one item at a time.

ServiceCatalogData

My idea of some of the needed entities for a Service Catalog

tl;dr;

Next time you think about a simple thing like “Service Catalog”, “SLA” or “Service Request”, please think again. The standards are not helping a lot here as they confuse matters more by not being explicit enough in their definitions.


1 This may be more complex than it sounds as the individual request may require formal approval from the client as well, since each request type may incur cost, or other restrictions may apply, e.g. Licensing issues.

2 If the service level should be defined in the Service Catalog or in the list of Service Level Agreements is open to discussion. In my experience any provider with a larger list of customers will have individual service levels per customer, so putting these in the catalog is not useful. In contrast, providers that standardize more should put these in the catalog.

Posted by: buzina | April 20, 2012

Continuity Management @noventum


20120420-084118.jpg
Are you prepared? What happens to your IT and to your business if there is a power outage, a flu epidemic or if your main network provider goes out of business? What happens if your cloud provider is closed due to piracy allegations?

noventum consulting helps with your planning. http://www.continuitymanagement.de/

Posted by: buzina | March 23, 2012

Windows Explorer 8 improvement


I really like the Windows 8 enahncements to the Windows Explorer interface. The ribbon feels natural to me and the idea of having it minimized initially gives you a lot of extra screen real estate. It allows me to show the Details Pane on the right as a standard setting as most screens are 16×9 or 16×10, so wide.

But I have one minor tweak to suggest, since I often want to quickly switch between the Details and the Preview pane, why not add a small button to both switching to the other? Here is a small mockup:

Windows Explorer

I know I can add the commands to the QAT, but having them in place feels much more intuitive.

Posted by: buzina | March 13, 2012

Windows 8: Some suggestions


 
The new Windows 8 Start Screen, making use of ...

Image via Wikipedia

I must admit one thing: I really enjoy tinkering with new software. So I know I am a bit of a geek in that area. So what did I do when the Windows 8 Developer Preview came out? I installed it in a virtual machine (Oracle Virtual Box). I did not play around with it much as it could not fully utilize my system. So what did I do when the Consumer Preview came out? I did not want to have the trouble of virtualizing it again, so I tried to upgrade my work notebook.

Here are some of my ramblings about that experience. Read More…

Posted by: buzina | March 7, 2012

Great Talk about justice


Just listen to Bryan Stevenson and then make sure there is a Little more justice in your live.

via: boingboing


iTunes icon

Image via Wikipedia

A little unusual post today, but I figured out how to make iTunes accept a longer ringtone – it is iTunes that limits the ringtone length, not the iPhone itself. And the best thing, you need no extra software and no jailbreak.

So how to do it? A few steps:

  1. Create a short ringtone for your iPhone
    1. Make a snippet of one of your favorite mp3 files or use the iTunes Information “Option” settings to Start/Stop quickly
    2. Use iTunes to convert the mp3 to AAC. You might have to set the CD import settings to the AAC codec, if you have set the Start/Stop time this will only convert the snippet
    3. Rename the file extension from .m4a to .m4r (ringtone)
    4. Drag & Drop the file onto your iTunes library
    5. Now you have a ringtone
  2. Sync ringtones to your iPhone – I set it to sync all of them
  3. Now you have the short ringtone on your iPhone
  4. Make an AAC version of the longer file, either resetting the Start/Stop time or using a different mp3 file.
  5. Replace the existing (short version) of your ringtone with the new longer one. It might be needed to have the exact same tag information (I have not tested that)
  6. Disable the sync in iTunes and apply
    • The ringtones will be removed from your iPhone
  7. Re-enable the sync and apply
    • iTunes will now gladly sync your new extra long ringtone to your iPhone

I have a full length song on it right now, so I don’t know what the upper limit is. Enjoy!

Posted by: buzina | August 30, 2011

Is COBIT practical enough for real world usage?


In a project started at noventum we were set on making the performance of an IT department or company measureable. We embarked on an interesting journey along with 8 brave students from the DBIS group at the Westfählische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, for whom this was their masters project seminar. I will post more on this project later, just one remark, they did a fabulous job.

What framework to base measurement on?

Most other participants in the project came from the business intelligence side of things, so I was the main responsible in deciding what kind of measurements framework should be used. As I am quite firm in the ITIL® arena I could immediately dismiss the initial idea of using ITIL® as a reference for measurements. I had only used COBIT as a reference  in order to find proper target definitions as well as control objectives and activities  for processes and it worked pretty well at that. Many in the IT service management arena prophesy a nearing war of the frameworks in which COBIT 5 “the delayed” might take on ITIL v3 2011 “the snobbish” (what is the penalty for heresy in castle ITIL®?). So why not check out the challenger and see how he performs in close combat?

Elation

Well at first the proposal of using COBIT was great. Instead of the long bullet lists with generic information COBIT has proper tables. COBIT is much more concise in its description and it has a structure for measurement in it. Read More…


Is it good or best practice to call ITIL® a catalogue of best practice?

What happens to documented bad practice? In my opinion it becomes almost indistinguishable from good or bad practice – it becomes the way things are done. And the way things are done is never rethought again. Good or bad, best or worst practices become common practices – things that you don’t think about agin.

Why do I blog about this? Well in a recent project I started to think again about the strange separation that all practices seem to make about Availability-, Capacity- and Performance Management. The more I started to think about this, the more these seem to be different aspects of the same tasks.

  1. Gather your requirements
    And this is not just about functionality!
    Gather information about Availability needs (Will people die when this stops working? Will we all lose our jobs? Will some people lose money? Will we all be surprised by what we get in the cantina?) early in your project.
    Do the same for Capacity (Will some people use this? Will this number increase with organic company growth? Will it grow according to the population growth? Or will it just skyrocket as soon as we are published on TechCrunch?).
    Of course the same is true for Performance (Will people accept to wait 15 minutes for our analysis report? Will our customers turn away if they get a bad performance once every 10 requests? Or once every 1000? Will a delayed transaction cause us lose the next war?).
  2. Design for these requirements
    That is the easy part: If you provide the requirements, developers, system architects and other specialists will do their job properly.
  3. Design & Develop for managed service
    Many applications log issues to some obscure log file. Many report timings somewhere when run in Debug mode. Others will deliver information about the number of concurrent users when treated right. Make sure your application/service/software or system does this all the time. Make this compatible with the monitoring environment your ops is using – allow them to monitor health before (!) you go to your first testing phase. Have this as a basic non-deleteable requirement, including defining thresholds.
  4. Prepare for production of these requirements
    The most overlooked part. If you expect skyrocketing growth of usage, prepare for skyrocketing growth in support. If you have 0.1 % of failed transactions that need manual verification or override be aware that increasing usage by 100 also requires you to have more staff on hand. Do not leave this to developers – they tend to underestimate this.
  5. Report and Analyse your Quality
    Take the information on availability, capacity and performance and report it regularly. Tweak your monitoring threshold so that the most important stuff generates just enough alerts to keep your staff busy. If they are doing nothing in the night – your alerts need to be more sensitive. If they start ignoring alerts, decrease sensitivity. If your overall agreed targets are not met – tough luck, add people to the problem.
  6. Feedback loop by using and empowering Problem Management
    ITIL® does not tell you this, but all the Design processes have a secret interface towards problem management. Every time you do not meet your targets in availability, capacity, performance (and all the others) you need to log a problem. Make sure the design team gets those.

Strange – this started as a simple rant post on the term best vs. good practice – and has changed a bit. Be prepared for innovation.

Posted by: buzina | June 27, 2011

What is a Service Request?


I am working on a project for an outsourcing provider for banks (as I often do). One of the multitude of tasks is to setup the request fulfillment process for the new client. To get started I had to explain what the request fulfilment process is really about, since the contract stated the following:

The goal of request fulfillment is to provide the service requests of the client to the provider and to fulfill these requests successfully in time with minimal risk for the client.

You can immediatly see that the author of this prosaic paragraph was inspired by ITIL®. So what does the original ITIL® tell me about this:

(Service Operation) A request from a User for information, or advice, or for a Standard Change or for Access to an IT Service. For example to reset a password, or to provide standard IT Services for a new User. Service Requests are usually handled by a Service Desk, and do not require an RFC to be submitted.
See Request Fulfilment.

Does this help me? Let us dissect this definition.

We have a list of possible meanings here, separated by or in the first sentence. So let’s check those:

  • Request from a user for Information
    Could be, but does not fit in with the request fulfillment idea of menu selection. Does not need financial nor other approval. So not a real good example.
  • Request for advice
    Hmmm, request for consulting? OK, but again, not a real standard product you can find on a menu. Could need some form of approval, but in my experience again not the perfect example of a standardized service request.
  • Request for a Standard Change
    Is it useful to explain on abstract term with the next similarly abstract term? Not in my opinion. If the definition is stated this way, request fulfillment is reduced to an entry point for standard changes.
  • Access to an IT Service
    This is the first entry in the list I can really live with – as an example. One type of service request is getting access to something. Often this is then fulfilled by Access Management, so request fulfillment is the entry to this.
  • Reset a Password
    This is one of the classic controversies in IT service management – is a password reset a service request or is it an incident with an inadequate authentication service? I prefer the latter since this enables you to log a problem against all those unnecessary password issues we have.

The second sentence is no better:

  • Handled by the Service Desk
    Please do not define a thing by how it is handled. This tells me nothing new.
  • Does not require an RfC
    This contradicts the “Request for a Standard Change” line above – even the smallest 3-step variety of “standard operational change” process flow starts with **artistic silence** Create RfC.

So great, ITIL® v3 does one thing right and adds a request fulfillment process and fails misreably in defining it.

OK, next: COBIT 4.1. Well, service requests are hidden in DS8 Manage Service Desk and Incidents. Great COBIT ignores the needed definition of service requests as well.

ISO 20.000? Well section 8.2 in part 1 says one the objective of incident management is to respond to service requests. Part 2 6.2.2 lists the “requests for help” as a part in a report.

So there is no generally accepted definition of service request which achieves at least a basic level of quality? Next up a personal definition of service requests.

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