Monday, 28 January 2008

Blog tag – I’m it!

I just got an e-mail from Craig Mullins ( saying that I have been blog tagged. I had to check on his blog site to see what it all meant, and apparently it’s the latest game. Each blogger reveals eight things about themselves (originally five) and tags eight (originally five) other bloggers – who in turn do the same. It’s like a chain letter without the final sentence of doom to anyone who breaks the chain. It seems like a bit of fun – so I thought I’d join in.

Craig was blog tagged by Willie Favero (, who says he was tagged by Lewis Cunningham. Willie also says that the first blogger he can find mentioning the game is Jeff Pulver (

So here are some facts about me:
  1. I live in the UK near Bath and Bristol and not too far from Silbury Hill and the ancient stones of Avebury. My family moved here 21 years ago, and my wife and I have stayed put ever since.
  2. I’ve been a school governor for nearly 15 years, and chairman of a local charitable trust for eight years.
  3. I have two grown-up daughters who are both at university at the moment – other parents will recognize just how much this costs!!
  4. I play the guitar (badly) and make feeble attempts at playing the saxophone. But I enjoy it.
  5. I have written and published three books – two on VM performance and one on MVS automation.
  6. I set up my own company (iTech-Ed Ltd – in February 2004 and it is still going.
  7. I have enjoyed holidaying in Kenya (safari) and China – you can see these photos on Facebook, where I also started the Eddolls group for people across the world with the same surname (obviously!!).
  8. I taught myself to juggle and am now trying to learn how to ride a unicycle.

So, who to tag next? There are just so many people who have already been tagged. So here’s my starting point:
Aseem Anand
Marc Wambeke
Ian Steyn
(I’ll add more later…)

They are now "it"!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Bringing home the bacn!

I’ve known about spam for years. On many occasions I have ranted about the fact that sometimes 90% of my inbox is spam. I have opted not to use the executive-must-have toys such as a Blackberry because I know the "important" e-mail that has just arrived will be offering me – well you know the sort of thing these kinds of e-mail offer.

What I didn’t realise, until a recent interesting conversation down the pub last week, is that someone has divided e-mail into two categories – spam (the stuff you never want) and "ham" (the stuff you do want). That all seemed to make sense. It’s useful if everything has a name. Although I must admit I’ve never heard anyone come into the office and say, "nearly half my e-mail is ham today".

What got me checking the date to see whether April Fools’ Day had come early was when the conversation turned to a third type of e-mail called "bacn". I looked it up on Wikipedia later – and there it is fully defined etc. So definitely not a hoax. I hadn’t been drinking too much.

Now readers of this blog will fall into two groups, those who already know about bacn and those who, like me, had never heard of it. So, for those of us in group 2, bacn refers to those e-mails that you want, but you don’t really want at this minute. For example, you subscribed to the Trainspotting newsletter one afternoon when you weren’t to busy at work and now, when a new edition arrives, and you’re completely inundated with work, you leave it in your inbox until later – a later that may never arrive before the next newsletter turns up. So bacn is basically solicited e-mail that goes unread.

I’m not sure how you’d classify the e-mail from Facebook telling you a "friend" has just written on your wall. Wouldn’t it be easier just to put the message in the e-mail and save me logging in? But then perhaps I’d just e-mail my friend and miss out the whole Facebook experience.

Anyway, back to bacn. The term bacn, apparently, was originally coined at PodCamp Pittsburgh 2. Since then, according to Wikipedia, it has become popular amongst the blogging community – but not so popular that I was aware of it until last week. Perhaps I should get out more – or perhaps I get out too much and I should be at home reading everyone else’s blog!

So if the conversation turns to e-mail, you can confidently refer to unwanted e-mail as spam, personal and wanted e-mail as ham, and whatever’s left as bacn. You’ll either sound like and expert or an idiot!! Let me know which.

Going back to Wikipedia, I’ve always been a big fan. I use it as a TV episode guide, to research obscure topics that crop up in conversation, and everything else. I was surprised that Google was setting up a new equivalent called Knol. I’m sure competition is a good thing, but it’ll mean checking two sources rather than one. A bit like a man with two watches never quite knowing what’s the right time. So, nil point to Google for that idea.

And finally... With spam, ham, and bacn, what kind of e-mail would be the equivalent of a pork scratching? I’d like to be the first blogger to use the term "pork scratching" to refer to an unread RSS feed you have set up!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Costs, age, and hen’s teeth

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2008 user survey has recently closed. At the very end of the survey was a box that gave respondents and opportunity to add any comments they wanted. This has made very interesting reading. And, without giving away any of the survey results before publication, I would like to draw your attention to some of the comments.

Now bear in mind that everyone who completed the survey works with IBM mainframes, so the comments are from died-in-the-wool, Big Blue, true believers – not Microsofties or secret Unix enthusiasts. And, of course, not everyone left a comment, and there were comments on other topics as well.

Cost was a definite concern for many respondents and two highlighted IBM support – or the lack of it. I don’t know whether other people have been dissatisfied with IBM support recently, but I’d be interested to hear. Both these respondents were reluctantly moving off the mainframe – which must make sad reading for Sam Palmisano and IBM shareholders.

Other respondents commented about the age of mainframe staff, with one giving details of the forthcoming 60th birthdays of the individuals who look after the mainframe. The word “grey” was used a lot. Age itself is not so much the issue as the fact that CICS, IMS, DB2, and z/OS itself need to be supported, and the experts who can do that are approaching retirement age. How can an organization plan ahead when the very software that the business runs on may not have experienced people to run it in the medium-term future?

Another respondent likened experienced mainframe support staff to hen’s teeth – ie pretty rare.

These respondents indicated that the thinking at their sites was to migrate off the mainframe while they still had people who understood the mainframe, and run the business on hardware and software that was less effective than mainframes, but which had plenty of support staff and experts that could be employed as necessary for the foreseeable future.

Although these are not necessarily new concerns, it must be a worry to IBM that they could be losing business while at the same time having the best hardware and software in town simply because of an ageing and shrinking population of mainframe experts. Let’s hope they already have a recovery plan and its coming to fruition in 2008.

And, as I said last week, I am currently one mainframe “expert” that is available for consultancy, writing work, etc. You can contact me at

Monday, 7 January 2008

And now this year's news...

Most years, I like to start with a blog about what might happen in the news – and this year is no exception. Last week I looked at IBM in some detail, this week I’d like to look more generally at the world of computing.

The first one, I mentioned last year – and even last week – is virtualization. Every server farm that hasn’t done it will be virtualizing (and perhaps even its close cousin emulating) this year. Everyone says the word “green” in order to validate the action, but CFOs know the real reason is to save money. Fewer boxes use less electricity to drive them and to drive the necessary cooling. So, although there is a cost in virtualizing, the savings make it a must for all mid to large server installations. And this year there is plenty of expertise available from the people working at sites that virtualized in 2007.

2008 and will also see more takeovers. Large IT companies like IBM and Oracle, will continue to absorb smaller companies that have a niche idea or just a part of the market that they want to possess. 2007 saw a number of familiar companies taken over. Cognos took over Applix before IBM took over Cognos. Oracle took over Siebel. IBM also bought Consul, and CA bought Cybermation. And the list goes on. IBM has started 2008 by acquiring Israel-based XIV. XIV sells storage arrays it calls Nextra.

Compliance will also be on people’s minds. Not only Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and PCI, but many others that affect the way data is retained by an organization and its availability in the event of a court case. There will also be an increase in the use and sophistication of legal discovery (e-discovery) software.

Lastly, I predict that many people will have a small hand-held device – with telephone capabilities – that will give them access to the Internet. Companies like Nokia are also taking over other companies to ensure they have access to any technology they don’t have themselves. The iPhone has shown us how a “modern” phone should work, and 2008 will see the end of buttons with everything being controlled from the screen.

2008 looks like an interesting year for me. So if anyone out there needs an experienced writer and editor, please contact me at