Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Spring semester has begun at SJSU

They're back

I shot this photo with my cell phone while walking to my desk this morning.

Google to do evil in China?

Google moves into the People's Republic of China and Reporters Without Borders [Link] responded blasting Google, accusing it of hypocrisy [Link]. Google, who's motto has been don't do evil, has agreed to censor it's content of terms that are considered politically incorrect in repressive China. China has become the fourth largest market in the world and it seems companies like Google's values are less important than their pocketbooks. Reporters without Borders publishes the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents [Link] available for download here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

UNIX Update

We have a count now of 86 tickets in GWI related to this issue. This does not include tickets created either Thursday or through other portals (such as direct contact of campus techs with UCAT's help desk.) Still, this is a marked drop off from Monday where the count was 72 (as I remember.) Hopefully the UNIX crisis has peaked and the "perfect storm" scenario I was worried about of UNIX Crisis + SJSUOne + Semester Start + Wireless will not occur.


Monday, January 23, 2006

UNIX crisis at SJSU?

First signs of trouble
The two main Email systems at SJSU are the UNIX system and Lotus Notes. UNIX is also used to authenticate to and provide access to the university's Web servers. Mid-day Thursday we saw the first signs of trouble with UNIX. Mid-afternoon we started getting calls at the Help Desk requesting password resets. When I went to log onto the UNIX system to reset these accounts my own password did not work. Normally I am the person who resets passwords, but now I needed my own password reset. More and more people were calling in reporting they could not log onto UNIX to either get email or update their web pages. I called the Computer Center to report there was a problem with the UNIX system. At first glance it appeared the authentication server might be down or having problems. I sent an Email to the SJSU techs Email list saying there appeared to be a problem with UNIX. I received a response that there was nothing wrong. In effect, I was told, this was a planned process to cull a handful of dormant and duplicate UNIX accounts.

Then, one tech from a university college called and reported to me that all the department Email accounts in that college appeared disabled and that mail to them appeared to be bouncing. That evening I sent an Email to all the students who work at the Help Desk to start marking all the tickets we receive with boiler plate language that would enable them to be traced. This went out Thursday after we closed:

Please copy this text and paste it into each GWI ticket you send to (Name Deleted) regarding the inability to log into client's email:

UNIX Account - user reports inability to log onto UNIX account. Please check to see if user's account has been locked and unlock it if it has.


A busy Friday?
Normally Friday is a quiet day and I was not in the office that day. I called in several times to the students on Help Desk and they said it was the busiest day they had since the hectic start of the school year in September, normally the busiest days of the year. They estimated they turned in about 30 tickets using the boiler plate language. This volume of Help Desk calls is not good on a Friday.

Monday, is that a wave on the horizon?
There were thirty messages on the phone lines when I came in and the phone was ringing like crazy. Accounts that were locked included the library reference desk and HR accounts. At the rate we were going we would never be able to get ahead. On top of that administrators were calling wanting to know what was going on. Answering those questions took more time. I Emailed every staffer we have at the Help Desk asking for any staff who could come in to come in. We have three student work stations and one is down on maintenance. So counting me, we had three on computers and a couple out dealing with walk ins. By around three a search in the ticketing system using the boiler plate language turned up about 72 tickets. Those were just the tickets we created Friday and Monday and did not include Thursday tickets or tickets that may have come in through other portals. It is my guess there were 90-100 trouble tickets issued, or handled verbally, on this UNIX account issue by close of business Monday. According to one administrator, I am told, the total number of UNIX accounts marked to be locked was around 300 and about half of those were resolved in December. If that is true we have most of those reset already. But, another SJSU IT professional told me reportedly did a search of the database and found about 1,400 accounts that had been locked. If that is true, what we have seen so far may be the tip of the iceberg.

Should we be expecting a perfect storm?
Tuesday is the first day of the semester and Wednesday classes are starting. We were expecting the normal storm of folks coming to the Help Desk for routine stuff. We expected to add to this the storm of new users trying to figure out how to use the new wireless network. Now, we may be adding to this a lot of angry folks who are going to be coming back to SJSU just to find their UNIX Email accounts locked. We have a physical limitation in the help desk. We can only have three students on terminals answering phones and entering tickets at a time (when all the terminals are working.) We can maybe have a fourth moving around dealing with walk ins.

So, has this blown over? Will it be smooth sailing tomorrow? Or, will this be one of those cases where three smaller storms converge to form one, big, perfect storm?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Friday is steward training at SJSU

Folks who have signed up for steward training at San Jose please
remember that it starts on Friday and extends to Saturday. If you have
any questions please get in touch with a union rep as soon as possible.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Microsoft & PRC vs. China Blogger & Free Speech

The story was in today's San Jose Mercury News
The issue is that Microsoft's MSN division shut down a blogger, who went by the name "Anti", who was using it's service and making political statement's critical of the government in The People's Republic of China (PRC). This story has also been on CNN [Link]. I am deeply troubled with how our American companies, specifically Microsoft in this situation, embrace doing business in and with and cater to the oppressive policies of countries that have such a poor record on human rights, specifically China in this situation. According to CNN:

International companies have adopted Chinese standards, saying they must obey local laws.

Microsoft's Web log service bars use of terms such as "democracy" and "human rights." On the China-based portal of search engine Google, a search for material the Dalai Lama, Taiwan and other sensitive topics returns a message saying "site cannot be found."

In an increasingly flat world with global markets and supply chains we are seeing what seems to be a race to supply goods, services and that means jobs at the lowest cost possible. Can freedom and freedom of speech survive if global corporations are willing to sacrifice their principles so quickly to make a buck. Can they be blamed even for doing so, if their competitors are doing so? Can a company survive if it doesn't do so?

China is such a big market, and such a major part of the global supply chain that companies are going to coddle them if people do not take a stand and stop it. But, if the providers of information to the Internet ban such speech in fear of loosing both a huge market and angering their chief global supplier, what hope is there?

Microsoft Evangelist Robert Scoble, who at one time offered space on his own blog [Link] to the Chinese dissident blogger, has been silent on this subject for awhile. As John Welch [Link] one of the commenters to the most recent post [Link] I can find that Scoble made on the subject said:

with China’s economic power, when China says “jump”, MS says “How High”.

Well said John. I wish more folks were paying attention to this issue. Scoble, with all the Google Juice he has, is in a position to greatly increase the visibility of this situation.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A look at CSEUnited

According to their website,, "California State Employees United (CSEU) is a group of current and retired state employees who have come together to help strengthen the California State Employees Association (CSEA) and its affiliates from within."

If you send an email to the email address on the website it will be answered by Ed Perez, the northern region coordinator for CSEU. According to Perez, "CSEU (also called CSEUnited) started as a group organizing for the Local 1000 election in May of 2005."

The former Civil Service Division of the California State Employees Association (CSEA) is now named SEIU Local 1000. Like CSUEU, local 1000 is one of the four affiliated organizations that now make up CSEA.

Jim Hard was re-elected president of SEIU Local 1000 in that May 2005 election, while his No. 2, Secretary-Treasurer Cathy Hackett, appeared to narrowly lose her bid to return to office to State Compensation Insurance Fund employee Kathleen Collins, 3,623 to 3,797. Collins was a CSEU endorsed candidate. On July 5, Kathleen Collins, accompanied by some members of the Local 1000 Council, reported to CSEA headquarters. She was sworn in by CSEA statewide president J.J. Jelincic as the new Local 1000 Secretary-Treasurer and as a member of the CSEA Board of Directors.

Both Hard and Hackett are also leaders in another group in local 1000 called the Caucus for a Democratic Union [Link to related story] (CDU). The CDU has been around for about a decade. It was once described by the Union Democracy Review, a bi-monthly publication of the Association for Union Democracy as, "a reform caucus working for more democracy in CSEA." Also according to the Review, "Jelincic was one of the founders of the Caucus for a Democratic Union." At one time Ed Perez was an activist in CDU and reportedly even webmaster for CDU.

The closeness of the election led to demands for a recount by CDU and allegations of election misconduct. After much contention, the election was re-held in August. According to the Sacramento Bee, "both sides said they believed there were voting irregularities" in the first election. In the August re-run of the election, Cathy Hackett was reelected after all as Local 1000 Secretary-Treasurer.

The CDU movement has been focused in civil service and existed almost exclusively within what is now called Local 1000. At the October 2003 General Council Joseph Jelincic, then a CDU candidate, was elected as the new state president for all CSEA.

According to Perez, it became evident after the 2003 election that the war (within civil service) was not over. What many saw as an effort to reform CSEA became an effort by others in CDU to destroy CSEA. There was a big debate within CDU. "Many of us had gotten involved with CDU with the intent of reforming CSEA and we accomplished that in 2003. Some people did not get off their war horse after that election," Perez said. After it became evident that what some saw as a movement to reform CSEA, others saw as a movement to destroy it, CSEU was born.

Despite being one of CDU's founders a serious rift occurred with J.J. Jelincic on the side of keeping a strong CSEA together with Hard and Hackett on the other side. Others sided with Jelincic and rallied around CSEU. According to CSEU's by-laws, Barbara Powers, another former CDU member, is the president of CSEU. "Barbara Powers was my inspiration," Perez said. "After the local 1000 elections we saw we needed to open it up to all four affiliates to prepare for General Council in October 2005. Right now we are mostly former CDU members," Perez said. "Within a month of forming we had about 200 delegates supporting our position, half of whom signed on as members of CSEU," said Perez. We went to the 2005 General Council the CSEU supported candidates, including Jelincic, were elected and the CDU supported candidates were defeated.

"We are trying to keep the momentum going. We are trying to stay the course and stop wasting time fighting amongst ourselves. We are trying to win elections and win good contracts and keep CSEA together. We need to reach out and use untapped resources. We need to focus on working together," said Perez.

In my opinion, that is what CSEU, and CSEA, is all about.

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China health care crisis

Globalization leaves rural poor in China without health care
According to a recent article in the New York times [Link] there is a health care crisis in China. As nations, including our own, compete in the flat world global marketplace to provide goods and services cheaper the citizens of those nations are increasingly being left without basic needs like health care and reliable retirement benefits. The drive to compete is a drive to maximize cost savings. That means those unable to participate in the cut throat competition are left to wither and in many cases are left to die. Is this really the kind of world we want to be building?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This is our university

Tower Hall in Winter

Winter break
It is winter break at San Jose State University and the campus is quiet. Winter break is a short pause between semesters. It is marked by alternating days of rain and days of crisp cold clarity. For a few weeks in January the faculty and students are gone and the campus belongs to the staff. The campus is quiet. Footsteps echo in the corridors. Even though we still have to work, it is now our place. This is our university.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Here are some pictures of Kenneth

Tomorrow is my youngest son Kenneth's birthday. He will be 19.

Kenneth and Cat

As Kenneth's birthday has been approaching I have been thinking a lot about it. It seems like he was just a little boy. Now, in 12 months he will be 20. Days go by so fast their passing seems trivial. But, each day is unique and never to be repeated again. Kids, they grow up so fast. It seems like yesterday, but just a little over a decade ago Kenneth was a little 8-year-old.

Kenneth building models

One of our favorite things to do was to go camping at a place called "camp." This is a place where my first wife Candy went since she was a little girl. After she died, this is where we buried her ashes. I hope we can go back there this year. 

Kenneth in tent

Here are some pictures of Kenneth.