Archive for March, 2013

Why you should insist on UEFI protected devices

March 28th, 2013

Security adviser/journalist/guru Roger Grimes makes a cogent argument for adoption of UEFI protected devices.

An interface layer between an operating system and firmware, UEFI offers much better security than PC BIOS. UEFI is an open standard that makes it harder to manipulate firmware in an unauthorized manner. Any UEFI-enabled component requires firmware updates to be digitally signed by a previously authorized party. UEFI also prevents other types of subversion, such as eavesdropping, boot changes, and so on. The latest version adds secure boot, which requires a unique key for each computer and each OS or low-level application; these keys can be revoked to block both known malware and unauthorised installations.

A novice malware writer could write a worm that could brick a significant amount of the computers in your network. With a little research and more malicious code, they could brick not only your computers, but printers, network devices, and (non-UEFI) mobile devices.

For mission-critical computers, I recommend that companies use UEFI-enabled computers and devices. Most end-users can’t tell the difference between a UEFI-protected computer and one that isn’t.
All new computer hardware that you buy should come UEFI-enabled, for several good security reasons. The original EFI specification didn’t offer much in the way of security. But version 2.3 (now under the UEFI name), and specifically 2.3.1, has solid security. It requires not only digital signatures for code updates, but enables the secure boot firmware-to-OS protection.

Today, UEFI and secure boot are easily the most secure protection firmware can have outside of a physical switch

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Windows Metro patch process – take care

March 28th, 2013

■ There is no advance warning of when a patch is coming. Metro app security patches can appear at any time on any day. That’s a very significant departure from the Windows Update cycle, on the Thursday prior to a Black Tuesday, Microsoft releases a Security Bulletin Advance Notification with a list of coming security bulletins. On Black Tuesday itself, in addition to individual security bulletins, Microsoft releases a summary with details of each bulletin and a risk assessment for each patch.

For the Metro side, there is a cumualtive running Knowledge Base article that’s supposed to list all Metro security patches as they happen. That seems to be Security Advisory 2832006. If there was any advance warning for the patch, I didn’t see it.
■ There’s no warning when you install the patch. The latest patch to Metro Mail didn’t look different from any other Windows Store update. Unless you had read that particular Security Advisory, or the KB 2819682 description of the Metro Mail patch prior to installing the Mail/People/Calendar update, there’s no way you would have known you were installing a security patch.
■You can’t roll back the patch – this is a disaster waiting to happen.
■There are no version numbers and no revision history so how. do you knwo iwhether a copy of Metro Mail — the one you’re running on your Windows 8 or Windows RT machine at this very moment — has this latest patch?
■. The details provided for the current Metro Mail patch are minimal. The vulnerability explanation in the KB 2819682 Security Advisory points to CVE-2013-1299, but there are no further details on the Mitre CVE website. Securelist describes the vulnerability in a couple of paragraphs, and there are other mentions on the Web, but nothing official. In the past, we were frequently inundated with detailed descriptions of the problems addressed by security bulletins and mitigations, often including blog posts and video discussions. Perhaps this Metro Mail patch is different — it is, after all, the first — but the lack of detail also seems ominous.

So take care!

Dynamics Ax – Lifecycle Services

March 27th, 2013

Microsoft will release Lifecycle Services in the second half of 2013 which will have a system diagnostics tool available. This will looks for what Microsoft calls “the low hanging fruit”, things that could be obvious setup or configuration issues that can be easily fixed and may make a significant difference in performance; things like buffer sizes, SQL tempdb location, debugging enabled on a production environment, etc. This tool will currently only support AX 2012 and up, I have not heard any plans to support earlier versions of AX. As mentioned earlier, the tool is scheduled to be released the second half of 2013. Pricing for the service which includes a whole range of tools is currently not released, but I assume it will be tied to the level of support plan a customer has with Microsoft.

Dynamics Ax 2012 R2 – new features

March 27th, 2013

As we go live this weekend on our first Ax 2012 R2 implementation
with Management Reporter 4, let me remind you of some of the features of this release:.

Summary
1. Manage global operations through a single deployment and thereby trim overall deployment costs and still manage operations in several countries with shared infrastructure.2. More localization which includes , China, Japan, India, Brazil, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
3. Data partitioning capabilities to allows effective sharing of data between business units.
4. More powerful business intelligence. New KPIs, integration with Power view and data visualization technology of MS SQL Server 2012.
5. Improved workforce management, talent and central resource skills repository management process.
6. Many enhancements for ALL areas – Manufacturing, Retail, Public Sector and Professional services firms.
What’s new in R2?
A significant investment expands the capability of Dynamics AX 2012 across the application footprint, which I’ve grouped into 4 focus areas, highlighted below
Manufacturing – Improve manufacturing operations for process manufacturing. In this release new capability for management of potency, traceability and product batch sequencing to help process manufacturing customers to streamline their operations. Potency management enables management of the concentration of an active ingredient through the entire manufacturing process. In addition, the improvement of traceability where important attributes are generated and captured during the manufacturing process can also be transferred to subsequent lots.
Retail – Manage your assortments across channels in your retail operations. New multi- and cross-channel capabilities for retail organizations, including catalogue management, cross-channel workflows, and integrated sales channel management will include a new “out of the box” web storefront offering based on the new version of SharePoint 2013 to let customers provide modern and integrated web commerce experience across different devices to their customers and is fully integrated into Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.
• Public Sector – Simplifying the financial budgeting process in public sector organizations. Combining the power of Microsoft Excel with the power of the workflow engine inside of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012,to support new capabilities in budget formulation with workflow approvals, flexible tracking, and reporting. R2 will enable complex budgetary requirements using Microsoft Excel as well as integration with financial budget transactions, position and payroll data to enable budgetary control.
Professional Services - Improve utilization of resources across your organization. Improvements in the intercompany scheduling capability of project resources will specifically benefit services organization with resources and projects across multiple entities and will improve utilization of your resources.
HR – Gain efficiency in workforce management. We continue to invest in the Human Capital Management (HCM) capabilities to improve employee lifecycle management, including enhancements in position control with tighter budget integration..
• Improve business insights for all users in the context of their work. This ranges from easy operational reporting, to measuring business performance through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and benchmarking as well as to providing deep analysis and actionable insights powered by new rich visualizations technology. Specifically, in this release:
o New and updated KPI content – where we deliver a set of new and updated KPIs that will come with the SQL BI cubes shipped with the release. These KPIs will surface on the different role centers.
o Enabling the new Power view technology introduced in Microsoft SQL Server 2012. This will help users to discover new insights through a highly interactive and familiar data visualization technology.
• Increase global reach and simplify international operations – Microsoft Dynamics AX is used by customers across geographies – customers that themselves utilize Microsoft Dynamics AX to manage their operations across many different geographies. In this release:
o Increased the global reach of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 by adding localization for 11 new markets (Brazil, Czech Republic, China, Estonia, Hungary, India, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia), extending the reach for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 to support 36 localizations worldwide.

o Reduced complexity for those organizations that increasingly operate their business throughout multiple countries by simplifying centralized deployments. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 already supports sharing of data, with the concept of data partitioning, to isolate data of individual units/companies, while still reaping the benefit of a shared infrastructure.

Data Partitioning
What are the options and benefits of sharing data?
A single instance deployment provides the IT-side of the house with the opportunity to share IT infrastructure between the legal entities; this could drive down costs of the deployment. In addition to IT efficiencies, business operations benefit by sharing data and business processes across legal entities. Business efficiencies and benefits include:
• Management of vendors, customers and employees can be handled centrally, streamlining these relationships on a global basis
• Management of product information is centralized, including release management of the products to the individual organizations
• Intercompany business is automated for processes including sales, purchasing and the corresponding financial transactions
• Central Services, including central AR, AP and procurement, are shared
How does this work?
What data is being shared and what is not?
Organizations in a single instance deployment use the same code base and system settings. These organizations have shared application data including parties, products, and locations. The transaction data such as sales orders or customer and vendor data is specific to each legal entity.
When is it beneficial to isolate data?
In certain, specific cases, organizations do not want to share data and processes between all companies. But these organizations do want to achieve IT efficiencies by running on a shared infrastructure. This scenario is typical in holding organizations with divisions that have little in common, yet have a strong identity, and are supported by a central IT organization. Sharing data between these divisions would not lead to efficiencies.
Data partitioning available in R2!
In the R2 release, organizations have a choice with data partitioning. Data partitioning makes it possible to divide application data into partitions of organizations. You will be able to share application data and processes between organizations within a partition but not across partitions

• Continue to simplify the application lifecycle. From simplifying single instance international ERP deployment scenarios up to simplifying setup and functional implementation with new and improved lifecycle services.
o Code Analyzer will help analyze the performance of custom code based on rules in the design phase of an extension by customers or partners.
o Data Migration Framework will support import, export and migration of data to/from Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 in the deployment phase. It will cover over 20 scenarios including: customer, vendor, product, employee, BOM, open sales and purchase order data, which can be extended by partners and customers.
o Diagnostics Framework to analyze data collected from the installation’s servers based on rules. To be used in the maintenance phase of your Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 environment(s).

School Management and Education Software from Synergy Software Systems

March 26th, 2013

Schools have all the normal business requirements from Payroll to ITAM.

Most industries have clients, but few have to look after all of them, all day every day. In addition to the workforce, schools also have a large population of students to manage day to day. They may also need to run: libraries, canteens, hostels, buses. They have: attendance, access control and security challenges. H@S concerns range from safe use of laboratory equipment, to swimming, external trips, sports and gymnastics. There is a level of parental protection care expected of a school which requires both careful vetting and on going training of staff.

There may be complex fee and billing arrangements. There are statutory compliance regulations, audits and reports. There is complex timetabling, and staff and pupil and room scheduling, and another round for exam scheduling. Each year brings a major change in the student base. Parent meetings, school events, student marks and gradings, as well as staff appraisal.

During a pre-recession Billl Gates visit to Dubai, the opening speaker made the point that local education results were lower than Ghana, but the per capita income was higher than Germany and that is a challenge for the future leadrship of the country. There has been a huge, commendable U.A.E. givernment initiative to raise education standards.

There is said to be more than 50% of the regional arab population under the age of 20. This demographic statistic is another factor leading to increasing focus on the education sector, and the government intiative to bulld many more schools. We have already seen the success of Knowledge Village and Academic City. The holistic vision of the Emirati leadership and the medium term strategy plans place heavy emphasis on education and the transition to a knowledge economy.

The availability of expert teachers to support this expansion will be a factor. Economies of scale may encourage larger schools, but those will be more complex to manage.Technology has an increasing part to play to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of education and learning. Virtual learning, multi media, collaboration workspaces, homework assignment and on line submission with detailed reporting tools are becoming standard requirements.

Synergy Software Systems offers specialist solutions from proven international vendors.

For example:

Timetabling software

RFID
– track on and off the school bus,
– arrival and departure times for students and staff
– entry to library and id for check out,
– cashless payment for canteen, add rifd tags to your library books and use our specially designed kiosks for self check out, and interface to our advanced library mangement solution
- tag and track all assets and manage the asset register and financial depreciations.

IT
ITAM for schools – numerous features
Monitor and manage student use of the internet, banned sites, time spent on what type of activity, what searches done, restrict time on line etc

Increasing use of mobile platforms – ask about our mobile framwork and integration to moiblise your requirements, and our tools for Mobile device management, tracking and policy enforcement.

This is just a sample of what we offer for modern school management- as well as our traditional financial and erp systems for back office operations – all delivered and supported locally.

Infor – Sunsystems – Cowen Group comments

March 26th, 2013

This week Cowen Group, LLC analyst Peter Goldmacher published a glowing Software Industry Outlook featuring Infor. With phrases like “a legitimate third option to the SAP/Oracle Apps duopoly”; “a compelling alternative”; and “We believe Infor is coming to market with right product at exactly the right time.”

Minor hiccup

March 26th, 2013

Apologies for the missing content in recent blogs – a html setting was missing

Space management – mobile solutions from Synergy Software Systems

March 25th, 2013

Dynamics Ax 2012 – new feature pack announced at Convergence

March 23rd, 2013

Some Dynamics Ax 2012 R2 workflow enhancements. Ask Synergy Software Systems for more information

March 23rd, 2013

Microsoft Dynamics AX workflow engine needs integration with the outlook email engine.. This is tohave direct approval or rejection options within the emails receives from the Dynamics AX workflow engine regarding documents pending for review in AX.

For example, an employee enters a timesheet, and then submits it to his or her manager for approval. The manager receives an email message requesting approval. The email message contains a link to the timesheet that the user entered.

The R2 release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 makes this possible.

Budget plan workflows are also introduced with R2.

The Workflow cube provides data that can help you to track the performance and degree of automation associated with business processes in your organization, which will enable you to identify processes that have become inefficient.

Timesheets approval of workers based on a Managerial Hierarchy.

When you setup the Timesheet review workflow as “Hierarchy” based and setup appropriate reporting positions for the workers, you will notice that the timesheet when submitted “by a Delegate” for an employee, will get routed/assigned to the reporting manager of the delegate(who submits the timesheet), instead of getting assigned to the reporting manager of the actual employee.

However in the R2 release of AX 2012, this issue is taken care by the introduction of a small “Design change” in the workflow configuration. In the R2 release, you will be able to select “Worker” as the “Start from” location for the workflow. This will ensure that the timesheets even though submitted by a delegate, will get routed/assigned to the reporting manager of the timesheet worker/employee, but not to the reporting manager of the delegate.

Goodbye Live Meeting Messenger and Hotmail- Hello Skype and Outlook

March 21st, 2013

Password storage.

March 16th, 2013

This week Troy Hunt wrote a piece where he called for disclosure by websites (and really all applications) of the password storage mechanism.His explanation of what this might change in terms of Internet security is great, and while this might not actually make applications more secure, I’m not sure that many companies would want to be forced to disclose they are storing passwords in plain text. Consumers are becoming more savvy and realize this is a poor way of managing systems and will quickly learn what are strong and no-so-strong algorithms.

Office 2013 offer from Synergy Software Systems to end March

March 10th, 2013

With the new Microsoft Office 2013 Suite of tools::

  • Productivity with modern, touch-enabled experiences
  • Easily form business insights with Excel
  • Bring ideas to life with PowerPoint and Word
  • Stay connected to the people you work with using Outlook and Lync
  • Manage Office with real-time performance monitoring and controls

For every 10 licenses of the new Office, get a shopping voucher worth $225* (maximum 4 vouchers)

This offer is valid from March 10, 2013 till March 31, 2013 to customers in: the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

 

RTA news: New salik gates, Friday testing, New metro lines

March 9th, 2013
  • Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has launched vehicle technical testing and insurance services on Fridays.  The services will be carried out in conjunction with the RTA’s service providers. . Locations offering vehicles testing and insurance services on Fridays will be rotated monthly between service providers (Tasjeel, Shamil, Tamam Al Ghandi, Al Shirawi, Cars, and Al Mumayaz).
  • The  RTA introduction of two new Salik toll gates, will be operational in Dubai with effect from April 15 . The first Salik gate is being installed near Al Mamzar Bridge on Al Ittihad Road, while the second one will be put up at the entrance and exit of the Airport Tunnel on Beirut Road  on the  Al Twar side
  • Looking further ahead Dubai’s rail network is to witness the addition of new lines, with connections to the proposed Etihad Rail network across the Gulf countries, . Land has y been procured for widening the existing network and new rail routes and infrastructure is expected to be completed by 2030 in three phases. This will provide new: Blue, Gold and Purple Metro lines, as well as a Jumeirah tram route

March 7th, 2013

As this blog approaches its 1,000th entry, and retirement does not seem so far away, a happier milestone is the arrival of my 19th grandchild who is arriving in a totally different world from the post war Britain of my childhood.That was was followed by the rock and roll 50s, swinging 60s. punk, house, garage, grunge, with similar changes in politics. The British Empire was already crumbling when I was born and is now little more than a historical anachronism. Technology too has  transformed- I remember early portable calculators the size of typewriters , a world with no fax machines, no emails, no mobile phones, no ipads, no Google, no facebook, no internet, you grew and washed your own lettuce, IT meant huge departments of punch clerks, when erp ran once a month and took another month to analyse the output, when RAM was $5 a MB and computers still seemed to run faster, and fast food meant a sandwich.

Now  we have space flight holidays, Surface, Google Glass, Twitter, Big data, cars that park themselves, near field communication, global warming, genetically modified food, and a new world for a new generation.