12th August 2006 Archive

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Google vows: We'll keep hoarding your porn queries

"With so many people searching for keywords like murder, kill, suicide, etc., are we a mentally/emotionally sick nation?" writes a concerned AOLer at AOLSearchLogs.com, a forum that accompanies a searchable database of AOL user's queries.
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Public debate on electronic snooping

Privacy campaigners have called a public meeting to discuss laws drafted to give police access to peoples' encrypted data and communications records.
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Supporting the helpdesk heroes

Reg Reader Studies Many an executive can quote the cost of downtime associated with the failure of a central system that is critical to the business. In fact, service levels around availability at this level are often used as a key indicator of the IT department’s performance. Something that executives have probably not considered, however, is the downtime experienced at an individual user level as they run into problems with the everyday use of IT – everything from PC crashes, through login problems, to monitors going on the blink and keyboards locking up because they’ve had a cup of coffee spilt into them. Whatever the problem, whatever the cause, for a user whose job is dependent on IT, the time between such problems occurring and them being fixed is downtime, that can collectively add up to a significant productivity hit to the business, not to mention a lot of frustration among users themselves. The guys that step in to take care of this problem are the technicians responsible for IT support. In larger organisations, these are usually dedicated to the support role, but in smaller environments, they are typically juggling support with other duties. Either way, it’s a heroic job, continuously having to deal with the Mrs Angry, Mr Frustrated, Master Know-it-All and Mssrs Dumb and Stupid. OK, they deal with nice well balanced users too, but people in general are much more prone to strange and volatile behaviour when interacting with helpdesks. But how well do we support those on the front line in their efforts to get users back up and running in the face of such frequently encountered adversity? The right level of resourcing and training is important here, but so too is providing them with decent support applications to help automate things like help desk and asset management. From a systems perspective, however, less than one in five (18 per cent) of the 2,630 respondents to a recent Reg Reader study said their support systems did everything that was required for technicians to do their jobs efficiently, with an even higher number (22 per cent) at the other extreme saying needed support systems were either struggling or just not in place. Those in between (over half of the respondents) said improvements to systems would be desirable. And how much does this matter? Well, quite a lot actually. During the study, we asked respondents to estimate how satisfied their users were on average with the support service provided by the IT department. This question appeared in a completely different part of the questionnaire but when we cross referenced between user satisfaction and the state of IT support systems, the correlation was very striking, as illustrated in this chart.
Dale Vile, 12 2006
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The Bastard and the Mouse

Episode 27 Episode 27 "... and so I'd like to get one of those new five button mice," The Boss finishes, after what seems like an eternity of blather. "Sorry, I think I slipped into a coma - why did you want one again?" I ask. "Because they can do so much!" "Yeah, that's where I'm a bit in the grey. I mean a one button mouse - I can …
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The trouble with rounding floating point numbers

We all know of floating point numbers, so much so that we reach for them each time we write code that does math. But do we ever stop to think what goes on inside that floating point unit and whether we can really trust it?