Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Can a Charter Drive Project and Program Success?

Every methodology tells you to start by securing executive support, as demonstrated by getting a signed charter.

That's a good idea, although not because anybody is actually going to pay attention to the charter document itself.  Most likely the only time it will be used as a reference is when stakeholders cheerfully point out that whatever you are trying to accomplish is not specifically included in the charter and most regretfully they don't have the resources at this time.  

It takes time and effort to get a charter signed out.
It is also true that a number of successful projects did not actually have signed charters.  So why bother?

Successful initiatives without formal charters achieve their success because they have active, observable leadership support.  Leaders are constantly inquiring after its health and come down like a ton of bricks if resources are not available as and when needed.   When that's happening, the document is of little need.  At the project manager level, the sure knowledge that if the obstacle is not cleared away then Mr. Big will apply his own unique problem-solving techniques is by itself a sufficient motivator that problems get resolved.

You cannot play that card too often, and you cannot pull it on every initiative, or you are back to the chaos of not having any priorities at all.

The point is not really to get the charter signed.  The point is that if you can't seem to get to closure to get the charter signed, then your initiative obviously doesn't enjoy a great deal of status with the intended sponsors.   If they won't do something as simple as signing the charter, do you really think they will go to war with the other senior players when they renege on their resource commitments? 

In Japan, executives may even sign it upside down to indicate that they don't really support it but they won't oppose it either.  Sometimes it would be helpful to have it right out on the table like that!

Having a charter does not prove that you have support.
Being unable to get a charter means that you certainly do not have support.

So by all means get a charter.  It won't prove that they really care, and it does not mean that you will actually get all the support that is promised.  At least it shows that they don't really hate the idea.

Learn more about charters in "Let It Simmer: Making Project, Portfolio and Program Management Practices Stick in a Skeptical Organization" will be out at the start of October.  Check it out at www.simmer-system.com and get in position for a pre-order at the lowest possible price!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Hidden Features of Windows 10 Install That You Should Worry About and Fix

There is a new "feature" in Windows 10 that you'll want to know abut (and fix) on Day One.  That's on top of the little security challenge noted in the previous post which notes a key action you will need to take before the roll-out happens.  If you haven't done it yet, please do so immediately.

A separate post addresses the actual roll-out experience, but the summary is: pretty painless.

What I want to let you know about today is a whole new security wrinkle you need to consider: the Windows 10 defaults.

Yup, that's a vulture sitting there, looking over your shoulder.

(Image: Audubon)

Let me say first, and not for the first time, that I am a Microsoftie at heart. And I trust the NSA with my information a heck of a lot more than I would trust the Washington Post (in case you are reading this, hi guys!)

Still, you can't help but be surprised by the default settings.  They go a long way to explain Rand Paul's apparent paranoia.  If someone really is watching your every move, are you really paranoid?

So, when the actual install cycles end and the system asks whether you want to customize: YES, you do!

Read the settings carefully. Your choices may be a bit more aggressive or cautious than mine for various reasons.

Here are the ones that jumped out at me:

In the basic Customization table, the key settings are almost the reverse of what I wanted.  I disabled:

  • Content and calculation details: no, Microsoft does not need to know that
  • Typing data: ditto
  • Advertiser information: no, thanks.  I get enough of that already.
  • Location (since this computer doesn't travel much and when it does I use the phone for "near me" sorts of things). Google seems to know the answer anyway; that's probably a whole other topic!
  • Page prediction. This one is not so much a security and privacy issue as it does cut down the background processing.  Yes, it probably would speed up the actual transition from on page to another but Verizon's FIOS service and (let's admit it)Windows 10 are pretty fast for most purposes.
  • Suggested hot-spots: more ads
  • Auto-connect to content-suggested networks: Really?  "Yes" by default?

That is 8 out of 10 that I chose to reverse.  What is left?

  • Smart scanning: protects against known or likely threats while in Windows browser: seems like a good idea, although I will likely not be using Windows Edge until all the sites that don't support Internet Explorer reverse themselves.
  • Send errors and diagnostics to Microsoft: sure, let them identify and fix problems. Of couse, I have no idea how much data gets sucked out of the machine when i doe that, and it may well undo all of the concerns noted above.  Oh, well.

After the customization appears, you will get an opportunity to go through the "Getting Started" page. At first I thought it did not work, but it came to life eventually.  Then I thought that the audio drivers has been killed, as the getting started videos were playing but without sound.  That too was restored after a bit.  I suspect that the system was busy finishing up some other tasks in background.

The system now advises that it includes several new applications:

  • Photos (the old Microsoft Office Photo Manager turned into a tile; actually this happened in Windows 8)
  • Music (I can't help you much here as I don't have much to do with music)
  • Microsoft Edge (new new name for the browser), and
  • Movies and TV (Windows Media Manager turned into a tablet app)

Since they are tablet-style applications, if you haven't had this pleasure before you'll have to get used to dragging them down and off the screen when you are done with them.  Yecch.  And it makes it quite hard to multitask with them, i.e to have them and another applications on the screen at the same time. There's probably a way to do that but frankly nothing about tile-world is intuitive to me and for the most part it disgusts me so much that I just don't use the apps.  There's a reason why I have a PC as well as a phone, which is specifically that I want to to be able to use information from more than one program at a time.  I assume that was also the reason hardly anybody liked Windows 8 either.

Once you've registered changes to your defaults and taken about 10 minutes to go through the Get Started set of tutorials (they are pretty lean, and more motivational than instructional, so it does not take long), you get a restart.

Up comes a nice new screen and to my surprise the system displays some customer screen-savers you may have saved earlier rather than the standard Windows displays.  Thus far, AVG Tune-up has not complained of the dag on system resources that those screen-savers cause.  When it does, Windows has some defaults available.

Also, fortunately, the Microsoft ID (the outlook.com address you were forced to create is you bought a computer with Windows 8 on it) and the PIN you had to set up for Windows 8 still work.

Then the system will take another recycle for applications setup; this one is only about 5 minutes.

Once it has finished with that, you get the opportunity to do more customization and again you may want to do just that.

The next area with some security implications is the Notifications.

  • Tips about Windows: You may want to shift this to "on" for a while until you get the feel of your new toy.  You can get back to the notifications dialogue from the Start menu [did I tell you that as back?  Thank goodness it is.  Although you may want to consider re-installing your own, as the Windows 10 version still does not show Recent History].
  • Application notification: Of course yes. You should decide on this at the application level.
  • Notifications on the lock screen: The point of the lock is that you are away from the computer. Why show your notifications to anyone else?
  • Alarms, reminders and incoming VIP call while locked: same reasoning
  • Hide notifications while presenting: yes, that would be a good idea. You cannot rely on this, however, as I assume it only works if you have a projector plugged in, or perhaps if you are using PowerPoint.  So if you are doing a webinar-type event through a web service, it may or may not pick up on that. If you're going to share your desktop, you should assume that people will see what you have on your desktop.

There are other settings but they are pretty much the usual choices, with one exception: under Multi-tasking, there are "Virtual desktop" options for showing desktops other than yours.  Whether you want to do that or not depends on your situation, of course, but there is no provision for declining to show your desktop to anyone else.  Until I learn more about how this works (as usual, there is zero documentation for the system), I am going to assume that anyone in your connected work-group can see your desktop.  And of course the people in Redmond, if you did not turn off the customizations noted above!  And the NSA.  And the Chinese.  Well, heck, you might as well not worry about it.  Just stay off the porn sites.

That's about it from a security perspective - as far as I know!
Microsoft seems to have a bit better information as there has been a patch install daily so far. Presumably they are fixing holes.

Oh, yes: one more thing.  When all this is done, if you have not done so already, check the "hidden icons" tray.  It's in the status bar at the bottom-right of the screen.   If your antivirus of choice is not up and running, then you'll need to decide whether to adopt Windows Defender or go back and re-install your preferred flavor. Which is where the "key step" from before the install comes in.

As always, comments are welcome.

Monday, August 3, 2015

How to Survive the Transition to Windows 10 - Fact versus Fiction

Well, the great day has finally arrived.  Or maybe not.
All of us will have the opportunity to see one of the most amazing projects of our time as it unfolds.
Microsoft is going to replace the operating system on hundreds of millions of computers with basically no user involvement needed.  Hopefully.

Naturally they have a story as to how this will work: here's a link to their FAQ page.  It's pretty detailed and informative.  Still it is what architects cal this the "rosy path" - everything goes as planned.
I never did get the Apple craze, I guess I'm just a Microsoft sort of person.  So I hope it does go well.  This post will be the first of several that comment on what really happens.

Everybody will be working through this at a different pace.
If you have any insights to share, please do comment and it will become part of the thread.
If you have a lot of knowledge to share, let's talk offline about a guest post or a webinar.

The announcement

Some months back, Microsoft advised me that I would be getting Windows 10.  I needed to sign up for the deferred program or else it might just appear right now.  Well, duh.  Of course I am going to wait until I learn more about this beast. It was hard enough trying to get past Windows 8 and keep using Windows 7.

I still haven't learned how to use Windows 8, nor have I figured out why anybody would want to.  The whole point of Windows computers is to do useful things on them , which usually requires more than one window being open, and that is something you cannot in Tile-world.  Apparently nobody else figured it out either, hence the arrival of Windows 10, with, we are assured, much more customer validation and totally complete testing. Hopefully I learn to love it.

The deferral process required a small download to my system.  Did I trust that?  Since they built about 4 GB of code that already sits on my machine now, and I get who knows how many updates a week in the background, of course yes.  If they were going to attack my system, it would have been done long ago. The little app sat quietly in some corner waiting for its master to awaken it, with no apparent impact on the system at all.

The Prelaunch

This week I received a popup notification that the window for Windows 10 downloads is now open.  There is a phased roll-out.  It does not say which phase I am in.  I hope I am last.

Even the deferred program has a deferral option.  I can even choose not to get it, and stay on Windows 7. If I get it and do not like it, I can roll back to Windows 7.  However, if I do that, I'm on my own, and I will have to pay market price for Windows 10 once I realize what a terrible mistake I made.  But I could go ahead and do it (or, really, not do it).

As it happened I went by a Microsoft store where I met a very knowledgeable representative.  He says they have really tested it a lot. There have been very few complaints about apps not working, although it is true that for some that come in OS-specific versions, it may be necessary to get the Windows 10 drivers, plugins or whatever from the application vendor.

One of the features of Windows 10 that he showed me is that tile-world does not occupy the entire screen, so you can get at the rest of the screen without having to shut down your current app.  So you can in fact work with two applications open at once, even in Tile mode.  That is great because .some of the Windows tile-based apps are really pretty nice but until now I have never used them because of the one-app-at-a-time approach.  Now maybe I can use them.

What Do I Do Right Now?

Go through your Control Panel and work out what applications you have installed.  I have at least four that I don't remember what the heck they were and had to go to the internet to find out.  If you don't need them any more, get rid of them altogether. If you do need them, write down your license keys, user ID and password for each app that you use, and keep it somewhere other than your computer - just in case.

Updated: after the install did upload itself, most of the major applications seemed to be in order. There are some that Windows removed altogether, which revealed themselves fairly quickly in normal operations because they were mostly freeware that supplements the Windows capability (or, perhaps, turns it back to the way Windows 2000 did it - old fuddy-duddy!)  Examples include Classic Shell (the Start button tool) and 7-zip (zip compression utility that didn't collapse the way the Windows 7/8 versions did).

The most serious problem was the disappearance of AVG (various security packages). Microsoft understandably inserts Windows Defender as a default to make sure that the user has some security present, but did you really have blow the other package away without a trace?

Since I use the paid version rather than the free version, it was a good thing I had the e-mails with the key codes. I do note, though, that if you have forgotten to record your keys, AVG will send them to the e-mail address from which you purchased the licenses in the first lace.  And if you have any of your AVG keys then you can access your AVG account and get the rest of them.

In a separate post I will go over some of the installation quirks.  There are not that many, but what you find may surprise you.

I have no doubt whatever that many people are more knowledgeable than me on this topic.  Please leave comments!!