UniFi versus Araknis versus Ruckus

Our old apartment was small enough that the AT&T Fiber-supplied modem covered the entire space with awesome WiFi. The new house is just a little too big for a single base station to cover reliably and is currently suffering from Xfinity cable Internet with two Xpods (Comcast’s own mesh networking device, comparable to Eero; so we have three access points including the modem/base). The system does not seem reliable and oftentimes devices are not connected to the nearest pod, but rather are trying to talk to the base station.

The house was built in 2003 and has a fair number of CAT5 runs, many of them never terminated. My plan is the following:

  • return the rented Xfinity modem/WiFi router and replace with a Motorola MB8611 that can be mounted to a wall near where the cable comes in and the CAT5 wires gather (don’t want to put this in a cabinet because it can draw 15 watts)
  • install a compact 16-port Power-over-Ethernet switch in the A/V wall cabinet where the CAT5 wires come in (the cabinet is 14″ wide by 19″ high and 3.5″ deep; it has a cover that can be left off for cooling, but has no provision for airflow); The UniFi Switch Lite is an example of something that would fit (only 7×7″) and will drive half the ports with power.
  • give the Xpods away to a neighbor
  • install three WiFi access points inside the house and one outside, all driven by PoE; maybe something like the UniFi “mesh” access point?

The neighborhood is packed with busy physicians and dentists who apparently aren’t capable of watching TV or getting an iPhone online without significant assistance. (By contrast, none of our neighbors in the apartment building reported any trouble getting everything that they wanted from AT&T!) It is common to see A/V service providers’ trucks, therefore, and when I ask them what they install for network hardware the answer is always “Ruckus and Araknis,” never the brands that I’ve used before (Cisco, Netgear, Linksys). One installer said that the Ruckus gear is used by municipalities to provide public WiFi (not by the Palm Beach County Schools, apparently, since the other night the guest network was non-functional and also Verizon mobile data was unusable, as is typical in Jupiter) and that he likes it because his company logs in every morning to each client’s house to make sure that all of the equipment is operating properly and has the latest software updates applied.

Readers who are networking experts: What is the correct solution for a standard McMansion like ours? UniFi, Araknis, Ruckus, or “other”? We don’t want to pay an A/V firm to log in every day and, in fact, don’t need any capability of remote management (though maybe it would be nice if we have a house-sitter and the network fails?).

A Reddit thread on this subject:

Ruckus is professional wireless networking. Good stuff but you pay for it.

As for Araknis I have to ask how you even heard of it. Are you dealing with an A/V installer? If so they are trying to scam you. Araknis is mediocre quality gear sold only through “dealers” at crazy prices. They target people who want to throw money at problems instead of doing any research.

An advantage of UniFi for me is that a friend has a big setup and is an expert on configuration. At a minimum, I think that I want to pay an A/V company to do the CAT5 terminations and clean-up in the A/V cabinet. A degree in electrical engineering does not imply skill at CAT5 crimping compared to someone who does it all day every day.

From a security point of view, is remote management a feature or a bug? Xfinity can presumably log every web site that we visit, but why create additional opportunities for individuals or governments to see that, for example, household members are viewing misinformation on a Muskified Twittter?


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Laptop with off-center keyboard due to numeric keypad

After digesting reader advice in response to What is the best 15-16-inch laptop right now? I decided to go with the $1200 LG Gram 16 2-in-1 from Costco. I’m setting it up now and already somewhat at war with the device because the keyboard is off center. Why isn’t the QWERTY keyboard that I want to use in the middle of the device? Because LG crammed in a numeric keypad, which I will never use.

For the Apple zealots, I will note that even their biggest (16″ pro) has the keyboard smack in the center:

They don’t bother with a numeric keypad because bookkeepers aren’t going to need a $3,000 notebook computer.

Who has used a laptop with an off-center keyboard like this? Did you get used to it?

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What is the best 15-16-inch laptop right now?

It is time to replace my 5-year-old Dell XPS 13. Despite multiple return trips to Dell for service, the computer has never worked properly, refusing to sleep when closed or even to sleep when “sleep” is selected from the power options at lower left (the only way to prevent the battery from being drained is “shutdown”). It lacks whatever mojo is required to run Windows 11:

I probably could have predicted this given that the machine runs out of CPU zorch on Zoom calls and warnings about compromised audio quality pop up. Also, having the camera at the bottom of the screen is an unbelievably bad idea for Zoom (others on the call will see your fingers as you type and, thinking that they’re on mute, will say “that guy has more chins than the Shanghai lockdown registry”).

The experience of being a Dell customer was traumatic, so I don’t want to repeat that. I’m not ready to abandon my love for all things Microsoft (the keyboard, the folding mouse, Windows itself) so I can’t join the young, hip, and stickered with MacOS. I haven’t enjoyed the 13″ screen, despite the high (3200×1800) resolution, but lugging a 17-inch laptop in the old days wasn’t fun.

[My 17-inch HP laptop died to support a worthy cause. A friend and I had it almost completely apart so that we could remove a failed component. Another friend walked in the door wearing a “women in STEM” T-shirt (“Maker Girl” or “Girls Code”?). She decided to assist us and, confused by a zero insertion force connection, rather than flick the male part out with a pinky, snapped the female portion off the main board (surface mount and therefore not field-repairable). (Are “male” and “female” terms for connectors obsolete in our 2SLBGTQQIA+ world? If so, what are the new names?)]

Back in 2019, I selected an LG Gram 17-inch laptop for Senior Management (see What laptop for Senior Management? and 17” laptop for seniors (note that Senior Management is not a senior!) and notice the lack of progress in specs; the LG Gram 17 had 16 GB of RAM, which is still the prevailing standard for higher-end laptops three years later). The machine is still functional, despite some abuse from the kids, and no tech support has been required either from LG or the Domestic IT Department (me). This machine will be used for travel and I like having a touchscreen, which LG still doesn’t make in a 17-inch version. So I am thinking about a 16-inch version. Last year’s model, which includes an 11th generation CPU, is marked down to $1200 at Costco (the newest 12th gen version isn’t quite available):

Given the feeble progress that I’ve noted in GPUs, for example, is there a practical difference between 12th and 11th gen Intel CPUs?

The Surface Laptop Studio direct from Microsoft is probably a great product, but the screen is only 14.4 inches in size. It is $1,550 with a 512 GB SSD (the minimum for me) and over $1,800 with the “i7” CPU. It also has the 11th gen CPU and a similar resolution (2400 x 1600).

What about gaming laptops for someone like me who mostly carries a machine into a conference room or a hotel room? Do they offer big advantages for sound quality, Zoom, etc.? I wouldn’t actually play games, though I would love to have (a) the time, and (b) the skill.

The old HP worked great until its encounter with Women in STEM and HP allows customers a certain amount of configuration flexibility. Maybe it is time to consider HP? Like LG, they won’t sell you a high-res 17-inch touchscreen, at least not on the Envy models. Maybe there is a conspiracy over in Asia to deny Americans 17-inch touchscreens? For $4,000+, HP will sell a laptop for “creators” with similar specs to the LG that I purchased in 2019: 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD: HP ZBook Studio G8 Mobile Workstation. It has a 15.6″ screen.

I poked around on the Lenovo site and didn’t see anything comparable to the LG. They don’t seem to make 16-inch devices, for example, and their 17-inch laptop is low res (HD) and non-touch. Perhaps their specialties are 14-15-inch business laptops and gaming laptops?

Maybe this is why Apple is so beloved. Since they’re the monopoly hardware supplier, consumers don’t have to cope with a paralyzing array of choice.

Readers: Please help! I want to make sure that I have a good laptop in time for Hate Week in case I am traveling then! (prediction based on what I’m hearing right now here in Washington, D.C.: Ron DeSantis and Kathryn Kimball Mizelle will be featured)

(Separately, I tried using a supersized iPad and keyboard as a Windows substitute on one trip and was unsuccessful. I couldn’t figure out how to use Dropbox and Office 365 together effectively and found myself missing the Windows File System(!), despite having previously raged against the tyranny of a single hierarchy.)

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GPU performance improvements since 2015 (and why not just use motherboard graphics?)

Moore’s law says that we should get GPUs twice as fast every two years (GPUs are inherently parallel so adding more transistors should add performance). Huang’s law says that GPUs get 3X faster every two years.

Because everything desirable in this world is being scooped up by the Bitcoin enthusiasts, my seven-year-old desktop PC makes due with a seven-year-old ASUS STRIX GTX980 graphics card. It was purchased in April 2015 for $556 from Newegg.

A similar-priced card today, exactly seven years later, should be at least 10X faster, right?

The 2015 card’s benchmark:

It can do 47 frames per second with DirectX 12.

Let’s look at the $1,050 RTX 3080 for comparison. Using the same inflation rate as Palm Beach County real estate, $1,050 today is a little less than $556 in 2015 dollars.

It can do 98 frames per second with DirectX 12. Even the cards that sell for $2,000+ are only slightly faster than the RTX 3080.

I pride myself on asking the world’s dumbest questions so here goes… if building a new PC for activities other than gaming or video editing, why not use the integrated graphics on the motherboard? The latest motherboards will drive 4K monitors. The latest CPUs have a lot of cores, especially AMD’s, so they should be competent at tasks that are easy to parallelize. Back in 2020, at least, a graphics card was only about 2X the speed of AMD’s integrated graphics (Tom’s Hardware). Intel, it seems, skimps in this department.

One argument against this idea for those who want a fast desktop PC is that the fastest CPUs don’t seem to come with any integrated graphics. The AMD Threadrippers, for example, say “discrete graphics card required”. The Intel Core i9 CPUs with up to 16 cores do generally have “processor graphics”, but does it make sense to buy Intel? AMD’s CEO is frequently celebrated for identifying as a “woman” (example from IEEE, which does not cite any biologists) while Intel’s CEO identifies as a surplus white male. Tom’s Hardware says that the latest Intel CPUs are actually faster for gaming: “Intel holds the lead in all critical price bands … In terms of integrated graphics performance, there’s no beating AMD. The company’s current-gen Cezanne APUs offer the best performance available from integrated graphics with the Ryzen 7 5700G and Ryzen 5 5600G.”

Is the right strategy for building a new PC, then, to get the Ryzen 7 Pro 5750G (available only in OEM PCs; the 5700G is the home-builder’s version) and then upgrade to a discrete graphics card if one needs more than 4K resolution and/or if the Bitcoin craze ever subsides? The Ryzen 7 fits into an AM4 CPU socket so it won’t ever be possible to swap in a Threadripper. This CPU benchmarks in at 3337 (single thread)/25.045 (the 5700G is just a hair slower and can be bought at Newegg for $300). The absolute top-end Threadripper PRO (maybe $10,000?) is no faster for a single thread, but can run 4X faster if all 128 threads are occupied. What about the Intel i7 5820K that I bought in 2015 for $390? Its benchmark is 2011 for a single thread and 9,808 if all 12 threads are occupied.

(For haters who are willing to pass up chips from a company led by a strong independent woman, the Intel i9-12900KS is about $600 and includes “processor graphics” capable of driving monitors up to 7680×4320 (8K) via DisplayPort. It can run up to 24 threads.)

These seem like feeble improvements considering the seven years that have elapsed. I guess a new PC could be faster due to the faster bandwidth that is now available between the CPU and the M.2 SSDs that the latest motherboards support. But why are people in such a fever to buy new PCs if, for example, they already have a PC that is SSD-based? Is it that they’re using the home PC 14 hours per day because they don’t go to work anymore?


  • Best Integrated Graphics (from Feb 2022; AMD Vega 11 is the winner)
  • ASUS “gaming desktop” with the Ryzen 7 5700G and also a GTX 3060 graphics card (could this ever make sense? Is there any software that can use both the GPU packaged with the CPU and simultaneously the GPU that is in the graphics card?)
  • William Shockley, who needs to be written out of transistor history: “Shockley argued that a higher rate of reproduction among the less intelligent was having a dysgenic effect, and that a drop in average intelligence would ultimately lead to a decline in civilization. … Shockley also proposed that individuals with IQs below 100 be paid to undergo voluntary sterilization”
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Would Hunter Biden have sent his failed hard drive back to Seagate?

Distilling from the comments on An internal hard disk disappears from Windows, but is still apparently working:

The good news about my $500 9-month-old Seagate (now available for $300) is that it carries a 5-year warranty. So I can send it back to Seagate and they will fix it or send me a new one, rather than spend $300 on a new Seagate or 8X-more-reliable WD (maybe the Western Digital drives are reliable because they are actually designed and engineered by the Hitachi team that WD acquired? WD is still using Hitachi’s old “Ultrastar” brand name to some extent).

Here’s a question for April Fools’ Day… what kind of a fool takes up to 14 TB (formatted capacity of the disk fraudulently marketed as 16 TB) of his/her/zir/their most personal information and sends it to strangers at

Seagate RMA
United States CSO Service Center
Seagate Technology c/o Agility Logistics
21906 Arnold Center Road
Carson, CA 90810

? Who is Agility Logistics, you might ask? Wikipedia says that there is a large Kuwaiti company by this name, but the company’s web site doesn’t show any U.S. facilities. Google says that the Agility Logistics in Carson, CA is a “freight forwarding service”. Where does the failed disk actually go? Asia?

What does the tax-domiciled-in-Ireland Seagate say?

In order to protect your privacy and other interests in data, you should delete all data, or as much as possible, prior to returning any product to Seagate. Seagate realizes, however, that you may not be able to erase certain data on returned products. In any event, Seagate will take the steps described in this statement to protect the physical security of such products and, if applicable, overwrite data as early as possible on products recertified by Seagate.

The first sentence is ironic. If your disk were working well enough that you could delete all data why would you be returning it for warranty repair or replacement?

One argument for trusting Seagate, despite the fact that they won’t tell you anything about where your disk might go after the “freight forwarding” is complete, is that if you tried to dispose of the failed disk yourself and wanted to make sure someone didn’t get hold of your data by sifting through garbage you’d have to take it apart and work to destroy each individual platter. Seagate presumably has some sort of super shredder that they can use.

But, on the other hand, Seagate has the tech skills necessary to recover all of the data if they want to and look at it, post it on the Internet, etc. Who is to say that a rogue worker at Seagate won’t grab personal data and send it to a confederate overseas who will then blackmail the hapless hard drive buyer with messages such as “We need 100 Bitcoin for The Big Guy”?


(And imagine how much better off Hunter Biden would have been if he’d fed his liquid-damaged MacBook into an industrial shredder rather than tried to recover its $1,000 of residual value. Daily Mail:

Files found in Biden’s personal computer included emails showing shady business dealings by the current US president’s son with foreign officials, and texts that showed him repeatedly using the ‘N-word’ and accidentally overpaying a prostitute $25,000 from an account linked to his dad.

Given that the stripper-turned-plaintiff got $2.5 million after having sex with Hunter Biden in an officially determined family court process, I’m not sure that it is reasonable to characterize $25,000+ to a prostitute as an “overpayment”)

And, even more important than WWHBD, what should I do? Ask one of our neighbors with a pavement-melting Ford Bronco to run over the failed disk 10 times?


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An internal hard disk disappears from Windows, but is still apparently working

Here’s a riddle that I hope the Windows experts among us can help solve. I have an internal Seagate Exos 16 TB drive that is dedicated to Windows File History. It was installed in July 2021, assigned to R:, formatted as NTFS, and functioned just fine through mid-March. Now it doesn’t show up under “My Computer”.

Device Manager says it is “working properly”:

Disk Management can see it, but thinks that there is no partition on it:

Following Paul’s steps from the comment:

The two internal hard drive peers are shown (disks 1 and 2, but not the 16 TB drive that is the subject of this post).

Seagate offers free “SeaTools” software that could see the drive and blessed it with a green status check, but then failed it on a “short self test”.

I could start over and reformat it, but I don’t want to lose 9 months of file history. And I would like to know how the disk lost its memory of having an NTFS partition (not a good sign considering that the disk’s job is to hold a memory of my beloved files).

What should my next step be?

For the foreseeable “throw it out and buy a Mac” comments…

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The New York Times explains computers circa 1967

Americans today love to read about cosmology and string theory, but you couldn’t pay most to listen to a lecture on how their beloved smartphones work. Apparently, there was a time when non-specialists were interested in “How does this computer thing work?” On Monday, January 9, 1967, the New York Times devoted a two-page spread to “The Electronic Digital Computer: How It Started, How It Works and What It Does”.

This article is preceded by a couple of softer pieces that talk about what can be done with computers. Every page includes “C++” up in the header, thus proving that the NYT can accurately predict the future.

The science writer, Henry Lieberman, is helped out by Louis Robinson, an IBMer, and they explain binary as well as mainframe core and magnetic memory:

Everything you need to know to be a TTL hero:

Source code compiled into machine language:

Universal access to computing is predicted:

And so is the Internet (sort of):

Page 139 carries a predictive article by J. C. R. Licklider about how scientists will use computers to deal with “big data” and there will be “vast information networks”. In several locations, including page 143 (out of 172; imagine a hardcopy newspaper able to sell so many ads these days to justify printing 172 pages!), journalists write breathlessly about how computers will transform education.

John Backus, who would win a Turing Award 10 years later, encourages would-be programmers on page 148:

Note the picture of high school students learning to code.

What about salaries and costs? An “Airline Clerk” is sought on page 165 and will earn $5,200 per year. On 167, a machinist can earn $6,700/year in the Bronx while a dry cleaning manager would be at $10,000/year. Page 160 shows apartments for rent in Manhattan. It looks like $100-200/month is the range for a studio or 1BR. So the clerk could easily live without roommates in the heart of the city.

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Teaching Information Security

This post is to help professors trying to teach information security, a subject typically studied by seniors earning a Bachelor’s in Information Technology. Information Security covers how to protect information from all of the bad things that might happen to it. Example problems include at least the following:

  • loss due to backup failure plus hardware failure, flood, or fire
  • theft by hackers and/or competitors
  • encryption followed by a ransom demand from hackers
  • corruption due to human or software error
  • service becomes unavailable due to hardware or network failures, hackers, etc.

The textbooks on this subject, and most of the materials published on the Web, including from ISO and NIST, are abstract and all about the process rather than the substance. Remember the old saying about ISO 9000 that it would be possible to certify a life preserver made out of lead. You would just need sufficient paperwork. So that you don’t have to pay ISO, see NIST 800-100 to get a flavor. The textbooks might be good resources for those working as Chief Information Security Officers at Fortune 500 companies, but young people just getting their first degree aren’t going to have jobs like that. Our textbook, chosen by a previous professor, was Management of Information Security, 6th edition, by Whitman and Mattord.

In order to make sure that the students developed some real capabilities, I decided to make all the assignments applications of the high-level principles to simple concrete scenarios. They were all open-ended essay assignments, with reviews in class and chances to revise. This part actually didn’t go over that well with students, who are accustomed to multiple-choice quizzes and fill-in-the-blanks questions. I don’t see how IT graduates can be useful to employers without becoming competent writers. If they’re not being trained to be hands-on technicians, e.g., Cisco Certified router admins, then what role can they have in a company other than developing the policies and plans that the technicians will follow?

I built all of the assignments around three concrete scenarios:

  • a hangar leasing operation in which a waiting list is maintained as a spreadsheet and active tenants are recorded in QuickBooks Desktop. All work is done by a single employee on a single desktop PC connected through a network-address translating router to the Internet (“HangarSys”)
  • a 1990s-style web site offering custom-cut khaki pants for sale (mustering all of my imaginative powers, I picked iKhakis, a site that I had actually built much of, back in 1998)
  • a T shirt shop that sells online and in person with all IT outsourced to Shopify and QuickBooks Online (Pop Ts of Delray)
  • a 50-employee law firm (“KWA”) with a classic Microsoft intranet in which almost everything hinges off a single Windows Server machine

Summary of the assignments:

  • apply the NIST standards to develop an Information Security Plan for HangarSys
  • develop an Information Security Plan for iKhakis
  • develop an Information Security Policy for HangarSys
  • develop an Information Security Program for Pop Ts of Delray
  • explain the differences among and between Information Security Plan vs. Program vs. Policy
  • develop a risk management process for HangarSys
  • develop a risk treatment plan (via transference) for HangarSys
  • develop a disaster recovery plan for HangarSys (desktop PC destroyed)
  • risk treatment plan for iKhakis source code only
  • protect investors and founders so the source code is kept secret, but flows to the investors if the founders die or run away
  • plan for hiring a temp to fill in for the HangarSys worker (the worst information security problems these days are related to people)
  • contingency plan for the KWA law firm (earthquake destroys office)
  • report on a network access breach at the KWA law firm (coffee shop customers got the WiFi WPA password)

By the time they’re done, the students will probably hate you, but they’ll have a portfolio of documents demonstrating practical skill in applying abstract principles. They can use these to show to employers. As discussed below, it may be smarter to assign these projects to groups of 2 or 3 students.


  • Microsoft Windows desktop computer (easy to train replacement if Robin quits)
  • Microsoft Excel as waitlist DBMS (only one user updating)
  • Quickbooks Desktop for accounting (bank statement integration)
  • Microsoft Outlook as e-mail system (merge Word doc with Excel list)
  • Second internal hard drive as destination for Windows File History
  • Microsoft OneDrive as off-site backup in cloud (Dropbox or Crashplan would also work)
  • Internet connection through network address-translating (NAT) router

Robin works at the F45 airport, owned by Palm Beach County and part of that organizational structure. There are 300 Tee hangars occupied by tenants who pay rent monthly. There are 175 people on a waiting list. Robin checks to make sure that the tenants have paid up by matching payments to accounts in QuickBooks Desktop (not QuickBooks Online, a different product). She periodically sends out mass emails to either everyone on the waiting list or everyone who is a tenant. When someone vacates a hangar, Robin invites the person at the top of the waiting list to move in.

If students need more detail to complete a plan, they can make it up, e.g., by positing a directory structure for the files in OneDrive or on the hard disk.


iKhakis, a startup within a big company, has the following:

  • Factory in Tennessee that can produce custom-cut khaki pants; Oracle RDBMS-based information system to support manufacturing and shipping
  • Web server to take orders from customers; Oracle RDBMS behind the Web server
  • Desktop access by developers in Massachusetts to Web server
  • Desktop access for operations from acquired startup in Masschusetts to Web server
  • Data warehouse for senior management in San Francisco to see reports on what is selling
  • All of the software for the public ecommerce site is on the Web server and edits go live immediately
  • The Internet Service Provider makes a backup of the SSD every Sunday morning at 3:00 am

Pop Ts of Delray

A pop-up T-shirt shop (“Pop Ts of Delray”) in Delray Beach is selling shirts both in-person (point of sale) and online via a web site. To minimize IT spending, the shop uses Shopify for its online presence, processing online orders, fulfillment of online orders, and also for point-of-sale payment processing.

Pop Ts has six employees:

  • the founder/owner, who works in the store most days and from home sometimes (devices: Windows 11 laptop and iPhone running iOS 15)
  • three retail clerks, who work from iPads in the store, but also bring their own smartphones and use Instagram for personal and promotional purposes
  • a merchandising expert, who works from home from a laptop running MacOS
  • an operations manager, who makes sure that inventory is maintained, bills are paid, etc. Works from home on a Windows 10 desktop connected to QuickBooks Online and Shopify. Also works from a Windows 10 laptop in the store sometimes and checks Shopify from an Android smartphone.

All locations are provisioned with Internet via AT&T fiber, with an AT&T-supplied router/WiFi base station.

KWA Law Firm

The 50-employee law firm of Kirkland, Watkins, and Austin (“KWA”) has an office in San Francisco. Everyone works primarily in person in the office, except when in court, out with a client, home sick, etc.

  • Core information systems:
  • shared filing cabinets for physical documents
  • central server running Windows Server 2016 (set up when the firm moved to Windows 10)
  • Windows shared drive (server with mirrored disks in an IT closet) for PDFs and TIFFs (documents from discovery) and Microsoft Office documents (work product)
  • Microsoft Active Directory for single sign-on to all of the Microsoft applications as well as PCLaw and Time Matters
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2016 on the local server; Microsoft Outlook on the laptops
  • PCLaw 16 and Time Matters 16 on the local server for accounting
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2016 to support PCLaw and Time Matters
  • Central phone number and Cisco 7800-series IP phones on desks (shares network/wiring with the PCs, contrary to Cisco recommendations, due to limited Cat 5 wiring in the building)
  • Every attorney has a Windows 10 laptop computer that plugs into a dock (hard-wired via Cat 5), but can also be used in conference rooms via WiFi
  • Working when away from the office: VPN into the firm’s network (otherwise protected by a firewall)
  • The IT department consists of two employees: IT Manager and IT Helper. The manager selects equipment, sets up and administers systems, hires contractors, and supervises the helper (who can solve individual users’ problems). The manager has already engaged a part-time Cisco-certified network engineer for configuring the routers and firewall as well as dealing with the phone system.

KWA has a Managing Partner, but otherwise a fairly flat management structure. There is an Office Manager who supervises most of the general administrative functions and a Finance Manager who makes sure that accounts receivable and accounts payable are current. The firm relies on PCLaw for billing and accounting and Time Matters for recording attorney hours. These applications rely on the Windows share drive server and can be used only from within the firm’s network. Payroll is handled by ADP and does not rely on any KWA systems.

(Fun to share with students who are dreaming of the California lifestyle, a 2018 response from a young colleague when I asked him where in San Francisco I should stay: “The review location is a cubicle inside of WeWork Civic Center on Mission between 7th and 8th wedged between a homeless encampment and emergency heroin detox center. I would recommend picking a hotel in another part of town. … I’ve actually found taking the train to the Civic Center stop and walking the rest of the way to be the best approach. Specifically walking down 7th street and crossing to the far side of Mission then turning right. Due to the layout and direction of the one way streets and traffic I’ve found cabs/Uber to work fairly poorly and often take longer than BART. I stopped using cars when junkies started trying to open my door at stop lights.”

Just a couple of blocks from my luxury hotel:

and on the same trip, I happened to get a picture of the In-N-Out Burger that was later shut down for refusing to check customers’ vaccine papers:


Checklist for the Students

For each document in your portfolio, use the following checklist

  • filename makes sense, e.g., “20211103-meetfish-source-code-version-control-and-escrow-plan-joe-smith” (YYYYMMDD at the beginning enables the documents to sort chronologically if displayed in a typical file system browser; add your own name (not “joe smith”!) at the end so that if the document ends up in a folder with others’ work it will be clear how to find yours)
  • only one version of each plan at the top level (create a “Drafts” subfolder if desired and put the obsolete versions in there)
  • contains author’s name, email, and phone number
  • contains date created and date of last revision
  • contains the full text of the original assignment either at the beginning or the end (so that your document, if printed, can be read and understood without reference to any other material)
  • does not contain any “plan for making a plan” material (e.g., cut and paste from textbook-type materials designed to cover a broad range of scenarios)
  • does not contain any conditionals (“if the system is using a VPN, then…”) since your assignments always reference a concrete scenario (fill in additional details if designed)
  • is in Microsoft Word format if at all possible (makes it easy for me and others to add comments and Track Changes)

The “plan for making a plan” bullet point is critical. Students struggled with these assignments at first. A standard technique for American college students is to take every 7th paragraph of the textbook chapter and submit that as their essay. If there is a guide to writing a plan, therefore, what is submitted is a condensed guide to writing a plan, not an actual plan. Until this has been pointed out to them at least three times, they don’t realize that they’re submitting the wrong category

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A 1958 UNIVAC airline reservation system

I had thought that SABRE, a joint development of IBM and American Airlines, was the first computerized airline reservation system, going live in 1960. However, “The Univac Air Lines Reservations System: a special-purpose application of a general-purpose computer” was published in 1958 and talks about the system being up and running already.

Have a look at the authors’ affiliations at the bottom right. A cautionary tale that success in the computer industry can be fleeting! How powerful was the mainframe?

Transaction processing time wasn’t that different than today’s bloated servers, with their infinite layers of Java, can manage:

The system was up 99.7 percent of the time for its first six weeks and the authors envisioned a future system serving 1,200 travel agents simultaneously.

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Social justice and vaccination crusaders meet IEEE floating point arithmetic (Facebook)

For several years I’ve been a member of “Airplanes for Sale” on Facebook. The software at Facebook apparently thinks that an airplane is a car and therefore tries to display the mileage. The result is “NaN“, a value in the IEEE floating point arithmetic standard used for the result of dividing by zero and similar outrages against Mathematical Justice. Here’s an example: “1999 Cessna 172 R · Driven NaN miles”

With all of humanity’s money (except for the cash that Google and Apple have harvested) and a healthy fraction of the world’s best programmers, you might think that Facebook would have noticed that it was displaying this internal value from IEEE floating point to end-users. The company’s software is smart enough to flag anyone who has questioned the idea that a COVID-19 vaccine is in the best interest of a 20-year-old. The company had the energy to kick Donald Trump off the platform (to keep us safe from another insurrection, was the justification). But they don’t have anything left over to catch this error that occurs literally millions of times per day (87,000 members in this group times lots of ads that show NaN).

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