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by Readers

Letters to the editor: “How to survive in IT”

Nov 21, 20055 mins
AppleCisco SystemsData Center

Also, migrating to Apple, complexities of outsourcing, smart networks, more

Surviving in IT

As a 20-year veteran of IT, I found Mark Gibbs’ BackSpin column, “How to survive in IT” to be dead on. At the college where I teach, I frequently try to relate this concept to my students. IT work is not all heads-down programming and network administration; it is a lot about people skills and interpersonal relationships. Gibbs’ column contains excellent advice and will likely be required reading for my students.

David Reavis

MIS instructor

Texas A&M University


Mark Gibbs’ BackSpin column, “How to survive in IT” ( struck a nerve with me. I see it so much in our field: the company asking more and more.  I have taken myself off the management track for that very reason.  I have a family and a life. I still work weekends and travel a bit, but I go home at 5 p.m. just about every day. Unless it is a network-down emergency, as Cisco would say, my life is more important.  I don’t carry a cell phone, only a pager, to keep some distance from the office and the silly calls on the weekends that should never happen.

We just had a mutiny at our department this week.  Personnel haven’t been replaced and staff was going on many back-to-back trips away from home, two sometimes three weeks a month.  Finally we all said no to another demand for extra travel, every single staff member.  I am sure there will be repercussions, but you can only ask so much from your staff. Personally (and I know this would raise a storm of protest), I wish we would unionize for better treatment, but I know that’s just a pipe dream.

During times likes this, I remember a quote my father told me: “No one every said on their death bed, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’ “

Craig Bonvechio

Twinsburg, Ohio

Migrating to Apple

Regarding Kevin Tolly’s column, “Taking the Office to Mac”: Migrate to Apple? It will never happen for my “work” work because my company is not about to enable cross-platform anything.  However, for my personal PC, on which I also do paid work, I’d love to.

A bigger point: Tolly does not mention PowerPoint compatibility.  I have to think his corporate audience will realize that the #2 application in use (after e-mail) is not Access, but PowerPoint. I know the Mac has one; how easy is that transition?  Is there an open source, native-file-writing equivalent?

And finish the Access thought. What do Mac users do?  Surely they aren’t still using FileMaker Pro?

Doug Tharp

Salt Lake City, Utah

Tolly replies: Sorry for not mentioning PowerPoint – just not enough room. So far as I can see, it works fine. I believe NeoOffice/J might have a similar function, but I’ve not tried it out.

As far as DB goes, I’ve not seen anything that matches what Access can do, though there are options beyond FileMaker Pro.

Outsourcing not so easy 

Regarding “IT complexity and outsource options”: Is this a view from an application designer? Sure, it’s easy to outsource the network, it’s easy to measure and manage, so outsource it. Yeah, right.  Until you get application designers deciding 16 different servers in four locations all need to communicate with unlimited bandwidth and LAN-like delay.  Not so easy now.

And sure, let’s outsource the one thing that lets all the applications actually be used by the users.  No network, no application.

Applications are (generally) singularly focused.  The network touches everything.  It’s much easier to outsource an application.

Michael J. Morris

WAN architect

Network Appliance

Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Hamming it up

Regarding “Cisco talking IP-radio nets”: It is truly interesting to see technology that was pioneered by amateur radio operators (hams) become mainstream.  For several years now, hams have been pushing this technology forward and using it to communicate across the globe.  Right now, I can use my HT (walkie-talkie) to talk with storm-ravaged areas, Alaska, Europe, Australia and even Antarctica.  What irritates me is the fact that I have read nothing that credits the hams that have pioneered this concept.  Hams did it first!  Give credit where credit is due.

Ken Linder

Henderson, Nev.

Getting smart

Regarding the Face-off, “Are smart networks worth the investment?”: There are valid points on both sides.  As we attempt to wring more and more efficiencies out of our existing networks, they will have to get smarter.  The key is to figure out what kind of smarts work best, implement them, check the results and iterate as we learn.

Cisco’s AON provides a powerful filtering mechanism that is more useful than the current access list paradigm that primarily relies on addresses and ports.  For many years, we’ve wanted fine-grained controls on routing traffic of differing priorities.  Current policy routing and QoS selection mechanisms are too coarse.

When I think of the negative points of the smart network, I wonder who is responsible for designing, building and troubleshooting the controls for modifying content within the network?  I can imagine a banking transaction being in error, either intentionally or accidentally, as it transits the network.  Debugging in this environment is likely to be an order of magnitude more difficult since there are many additional places where the data can be changed.  I can see the post-mortem now: “The routes changed and the transaction’s data went through a router that didn’t have the control to make the desired change.”

It is clear that the application development staff and the networking staff will have to be much cozier than they have been in the past to make smart networks successful.

Terry Slattery

CEO and founder


Annapolis, Md.