Wednesday, October 26, 2005

VMPlayer ...

I was going to write an entry on this. For those who attended Oracle Open World 2005, you would have received 2 DVDs containing the pre-built Oracle 10g virtual environment on Red Hat Linux. These are the same DVDs listed on the Oracle-on-Linux Virtual Machine.

Instead, Lewis Cunningham is going through the same process and has started blogging about it so read his entries and I will supplement whenever I can by posting comments on his blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wikipedia Entries - Oracle-related

For those who don't already know, Wikipedia is a community-based effort to provide a free online encyclopedia. Obviously the project has spawned a number of other efforts and it's all good stuff. This is all done with contributions from volunteers from all over the world.

Of course, Oracle Corporation has an entry but do you know that Tom Kyte also has an entry as a Computer Specialist? You can also volunteered to help fill in more information on any subject that you know of. Everything is done by peer review and obviously incorrect facts and opinions are removed. Mike Ault is listed but not Don Burleson nor is Cary Milsap or Jonathan Lewis.

I will be contributing to some articles but probably not Oracle related but my other passion, badminton. Check out Wikipedia and if you have the time, please contribute.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

5 years later...another closure

Last Friday I received a letter from Ernest & Young and I couldn't figure out why E & Y would be mailing me after all I don't have regular dealings with them. It turned out to be a letter informing me (as a creditor) that the bankruptcy proceedings of my former employers have wrapped up and that their fees (almost $80,000) as trustees/receivers exceeded the 7.5% of the amount left after the realization (sale) of all assets.

In one of my previous life, I was the Director of Application Development for this dot com organization (a New Media company) which has since went under over 5 years ago (Apr 2000). Obviously the employees (including me) were caught but we were lucky enough to get all our pay except for pay increases (which were retroactive) promised.

I had filed claim papers on behalf of everyone to the Employment Office which has since been downsized by the current Liberal administration and had thought that everything would have been wrapped up long before then. There were no way that the employees will be able to get all the monies owed to them even though the current Corporation Act do hold board members personally liable for employees wages.

Anyhow, it seems that another chapter in my life is closing and it was with a sense of regret that we didn't quite make it (i.e. survive the tech bubble burst) but it was fun while it lasted. I'm just surprised that it took this long to wrap up everything but then I'd heard a few rumours of complications including the disappearance of assets just before the company file for bankruptcy so maybe that's why it took this long. When they auctioned off the majority of the assets (office furniture, computers, etc), an acquitance actually ended buying the laptop that I used as he phoned me to help him get access to the machine (the trustees didn't bothered with wiping the drive) along with all the programs, data, and documents.

C'est la vie!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oracle Oct 05 CPU

As scheduled, Oracle released its latest Critical Patch Update (CPU Oct 05) and a number of folks have provided comments including:

a) Pete Finnigan's Weblog;
b) Red Database Security; and
c) Integrigy with analysis.

I'm sure that there are others but I have not had the chance to go through the notes yet and would suggest that you take a look at the links above and bring yourself up to speed on the fixes and then decide whether you need to apply to your particular situation and if so, a plan should be prepared.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Teachers' Strike Update

In one of my previous post, I talked about the upcoming teachers' strike. Well, it's now into its second week and no sign that it will be over pretty soon. Just to recap:
- after months of negotiation, there were no agreement. Contract expired June 2004
- teachers' union held a strike vote with 80+% voting to strike.
- government pre-empt by tabling legislation (Bill 12) to impose (extend) expired contract to June 2006
- teachers walked off before legislation passed
- Labour Relations Board (appointed positions) ruled strike to be illegal
- BC Supreme Court sided with LRB and rule union in contempt
- Government declared that there is no way they are willing to talk to law-breakers
- BC Fed of Labour and various other unions pledged their support to the teachers
- Supreme court freeze assets of BC Teachers Federation and declared that teachers cannot be paid their strike pay.
- Unions organized a day of protest where over 10,000 workers descended on the lawns of the legislative buildings in Victoria (capital of BC) and effectively shut down most services within the Greater Victoria Region.
- Premier finally held a press conference to say that he "see nothing wrong with the teachers accepting the imposed contract for another 9 months with no pay increases while the negotiation/bargaining process is being reworked."
- Government appointed a special prosecutor to see if criminal contempt charges should be brought against the union and its members.
- Business leaders held press conference to denounce the unions' actions and declare that it is a shame that support was being pledged to "law breakers" (Bill 12 became law). NB: Bill 12 is actually in violation of International Labour laws so are the business leaders denouncing the Liberal government for breaking International Labour laws?
- News media showed recent polls of support for teachers (57%)
- Teachers are defiant and stressed that their strike is not about pay but better quality education (class sizes and additional funding for resources).

It's a fine mess and it seems that the government is determined to propose and pass legislation to get their way and in the meanwhile, the children suffers. I am obviously distraught at the heavy-handedness of the government and the refusal of key players (e.g Supreme court) to stand up to something that is so obviously unfair (the removal of the teachers rights to fair compensation and the right to strike).

Right now, it seems that both sides are quite dug in and probably so in order not to lose face. It probably will take a third-party to broker a deal so that neither side will be seen as the loser. Only time will tell but let's hope that it can be resolved within this week as any longer, the higher grade students will be behind in their preparations for the Provincial exams which will impact their chances of attending university. An updated news story is available here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Workplace Bullying - Part I

Bullies...who hasn't encountered one? They are part and parcel of life and come in various forms and sizes. One trait that they all shared is that they are insecured and they masked this insecurity by picking on folks who either would not fight back or were too afraid. I've had my share of bullies while growing up and have gotten into a few fights where I won and also lost. Nowadays, it's different as more than likely the bullies are in a group and even if it's one-on-one, the chances of the bully coming back with friends are pretty high (as in swarming).

Bullying occurs in various forms but basically it's an attempt to frighten, to coerce and to intimidate. It could be the government (e.g. the government vs the BC Teachers Federation) or it could be an organization/individual.

So, what do you do if you have a workplace bully? It depends on whether you are a co-worker or a manager. Let's start with the co-worker scenario as this is likely more common. Let's say that you or another co-worker has been subjected to this bully. First thing would be tell the bully that his/her behaviour is unacceptable and point out specific instances (NB: Keep to the specifics as most likely the bully will try and divert attention to some trivial non-issues). This should be followed up by telling him/her that it would be taken up to management if it continues. Once it's brought to management attention, it then becomes an issue for management to deal with as it should be. If management refuses to deal with the situation then maybe it's time to move on to a different organization. Seriously, you spend a good portion of your life working and why should you do it in an organization that doesn't value your commitment?

That's it for the employee/co-worker portion. What happen if the bully is your supervisor/manager instead of a co-worker and you don't feel comfortable with confronting your supervisor/manager? My suggestion is to approach HR and seek their advice. I would even go as far as to have an HR rep present when you meet with your supervisor/manager to discuss the bullying issue. NB: Please do keep in mind that HR represent the employer - in this case, the organization not the manager/supervisor.

In part II, I will focus on the managerial portion of dealing with Workplace Bullying. If you are in Canada, here's a link to the Canada Safety Council on Workplace Bullying.

Bloggers rejoice

I was referred to the following outcome of a Delaware Supreme Court ruling on the case of a lawsuit filed to try and unmask anonymous bloggers (NY Times article). Obviously this just another step for folks who are willing to voice their opinions on public matters. You can download the ruling document here

While it looks like this Supreme Court ruling will set the standard for future and similar cases, it is still doesn't mean that anyone can willy nilly post defamatory statements about anyone. There are still a number of cases outstanding in the various courts across the USA. But one thing that stood out from this ruling is that the Supreme Court Judge was able to differentiate between 'fishing' and definite defamation.

Another interesting case to track is currently in process and it involves an individual and a corporation. Details can be found here. This one is a little more complicated but the Electronic Freedom Foundation is keeping tabs.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Interesting Opinion (Open Letter) from D. Litchfield

Bugtraq has a posting by David Litchfield on the sad state of (non)security in the Oracle software suite. Cesar Cerrudo of Argeniss also added his voice to David's opinion.

What worries me is Cesar's "threat" to release 0day exploits to force Oracle to take a serious approach to fixing the flaws that have been identified. Many of which are supposely "fixed" by the various CPU patches and Alert 68. I sure hope that it does not come to that and I look forward to Mary-Ann Davidson's response of their strategy to fix the flaws (now and future).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The BC Liberals Government are morons and bullies

The teachers in the Province of British Columbia have been without a contract since June 2004 when their last contract with the government expired. In that contract, the basic terms were 0%, 0% and 0% pay raises over the three-year contract period. Under the new negotiations, the teachers are asking for a 2% increase per year over 3 years with market adjustments of 2%, 3% and 4% (market adjustments to bring the teachers' salary up to par with their counterparts in other parts of the country). The news media have seized on this as the union asking for a 15% increase which is a red herring as it's 4%, 5% and 6% over the years. Other requests included reduced class sizes which the government took away in the last contract.

The response from the government in the form of the Labour Minister, Mike de Jong, was the introduction of legislation (Bill 12) which is to extend the expired contract from June 2004 to June 2006 taking away the teachers' right to stand up for their rights (legally). That's just plain mean and the tactics of a bully. Now if the teachers decided to take job action, they will be breaking the law and there will be consequences which would include large fines and possible jail time for the Executives. The government had lots of time to negotiated before the contract expired last June but no, they have wait until this year to start talks and are offering a 0% increase over the three years with no major concessions.

As a parent of school-aged kids, I'm very concerned about the impact to my kids' education but I'm even more alarmed with the heavy handedness of the government. Remember this is the same government who tore up the contract for the nursing union (a contract that was negotiated in good faith) because it didn't suit them. This is a government that is led by a man convicted of drunk driving (driving under the influence) who have no morals or principles and have shown to be mean-spirited (as is evidenced when the opposition party could only garter two seats out of 77 but needed 3 to gain opposition funding and the Premier flat out refused thereby effectively making a government without any official opposition). NB: This was during the first term and they are currently on their second term with a lot less seats won.

Right now, it's confirmed that the teachers will stage a wildcat strike and walk off the job this Friday to protest against the passing of this legislation.

The teachers have my thanks and support for standing up to a bully.

Addendum: Now the government is threatening to fire any teachers who participate in the scheduled illegal strike (which over 90% voted in favour of).

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Minutemen Border Project

NB: I did this blog yesterday but for some reason, Blogger didn't post it.

Well, they started down south early this year in patrolling the US/Mexican border and now they are monitoring the US/Canadian border. Who are these folks, the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps? Patriots or Racists? A spokeswoman for the group has this to said (taken from,
“Canada has extremely lax laws allowing people to come in and live there from Middle Eastern countries,” said Connie Hair, a spokeswoman for the group. “If you’re from the Middle East, it only makes sense that you might be in a Middle Eastern terror cell.”

That sounded like racial profilling to me. What's next? How about targeting the Chinese community as it is possible that they might be spies for the Chinese Government or the Koreans as they could be sleepers for the N. Korean government?

Now, obviously, these folks are armed (as per the US Consitution rights to bear arms) and even though the policy is only to monitor and report, I can see situations occuring where accidental shootings might happen. What would you do if after you have crossed the border legally and ran into a truckful of armed men? I would probably hit the gas to get the heck out of there which could then be interpreted as having something to hide and I can just see these guys shooting away.

Scary stuff and another factor to consider when planning a trip to the US by land.

NB: Edited to remove an incorrect assumption on my part. See comments for details